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I Love Potlucks!

I love potlucks. Last night, I attended the monthly meeting of the Austin Czech Historical Association (ACHA) at the Gethsemane Lutheran Church Fellowship Hall. Members share a potluck meal together and then listen to a speaker or musician or other interesting person present some topic related to Czech or Texas-Czech culture. This group has the evening's timing down right. BEFORE the program, we go through the line on either side of the long tables set with dishes and we make our plates. And the event is BYOB, which people do. We are Czech, after all.

I heard someone comment that this evening there were too many meats and not enough vegetables in reaction to a previous meeting where the opposite was true. That's the nature of potlucks and the fun. I personally loved having three kinds of sausage on my plate. And Czechs do know how to balance the flavors of a meal. A little rich pork and something sour to cut it - pickles, olives, vinegar-based cole slaw, vinegar-dressed green salad, sauerkraut. (There was a corn casserole, broccoli-rice casserole, and au gratin potatoes as well.) Then something sweet to finish the evening.

The program starts after everyone has moved onto coffee and dessert.  There were oatmeal cookies and peanut butter cookies, poppyseed cake and cherry pie, and kolaches from Hruska's. Sometimes the people and the discussion are like the potluck meal itself... occasionally random, or you get 3 or 4 of the same thing. Usually there are few surprises, but also familiar staples. I was lucky enough to sit at a table with or spend time with Gene Volcik, Alice Kubacak, and Tutty Maixner - wonderful story tellers and funny as hell. Conversation topics ranged from high school sweethearts, old dance halls, and easiest and most difficult surgery (to go through), to favorite kolach flavors, drunk polka bands in the 1950s, and pickle recipes. Everyone should have to periodically spend time with people at least 30 years older than themselves for as long as they can - how grounding, how comforting, how humbling, and how interesting. And family reunions and cultural meeting potlucks are great places to do that.

Lori Najvar and Gene Volcik.
I took a loaf of banana bread for dessert. The recipe came from my sister years ago and she wrote on the recipe card that she got it from a Czech cookbook given to my Dad by my grandmother, but she didn't write which cookbook. She did, however, write the Czech name for the loaf on the card - Bananova Babovka.

1/3 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 3/4 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon slat
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup mashed bananas ( I used 3 bananas)
1/2 cup nuts
3/4 cup raisins
1 teaspoon cinnamon and sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cream the sugar, butter and eggs. Add the dry ingredients, the bananas, nuts, and raisins. Pour mixture into a greased loaf pan. Sprinkle the top with the cinnamon/sugar. Bake for 1 hour.

The ACHA's monthly programs are sort of like a potluck, too. Lori and I have presented several times, but there have also been talks about Czech celebrities and politics, music performances by accordionists and singers, and an egg decorating demonstration. For last night's program, Carolyn Heinsohn gave a great talk about the Texas Czech Heritage and Cultural Center (TCHCC) in LaGrange. Carolyn is a volunteer at the Center and former State President of the Czech Heritage Society. The TCHCC's mission is to "preserve and promote the history, language, culture, and heritage of Texans of Czech ethnicity." It does so through a library, museum, archives and with public programs.  The current exhibit is of photographs from area professional photographers of the early 1900s, including Jno. Trlica.

Texas Czech Heritage and Cultural Center in La Grange


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