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Garlic Soup

I'm sitting at my dining table eating a bowl of garlic soup and thinking about my great grandfather, Alois J. Morkovsky. The story my mother tells me is that he would ask my grandmother to make the soup for him when he was feeling under the weather, like coming down with a cold.  (He lived with her and her family in his later years.) I have friends in the Czech Republic who recommend the same treatment (eating garlic) for a cold along with tying a scarf around ones neck.

The soup I'm eating today evolved over the last week or so. On Sunday, the 30th, I went to Hallettsville for the annual Morkovsky reunion where I got several people to tell me stories about Alois Morkovsky. My parents and I stayed at my grandmother's house (she passed in January of 2012) and I helped my parents make roast pork, a squash casserole, and potatoes with butter and onions for the event. When it came time to drain the water from boiling the potatoes, both my mother and I had the same idea - to save it. I don't know if making soup with potato water is particularly Czech, but I don't know if other families do it either. And I was boiling potatoes in the kitchen my grandmother cooked garlic soup in for her father. So, I brought the potato water home to Austin with me in a cooler.

Below is a family recipe for the soup. Instead of boiling potatoes, I used the water I'd saved from preparing for the reunion plus I had leftover potatoes from a salad made for my brother's wedding last Saturday. They had been dressed with a little olive oil, garlic and some chopped parsley, which I thought couldn't hurt at all. (My family does not throw food away.) I also did not use lard, but added a couple of tablespoons of butter. This is an absolutely delicious soup - strong in flavor and comforting. I would consider the amounts of caraway and, especially, the garlic to be "to taste." Add even more! Don't let the soup simmer long after you add the garlic, mellowing it too much - the point is that it's supposed to be STRONG.
Cesnecka (Garlic Soup)  
1 pound of potatoes
6 cups of water
dash of powdered caraway seeds (I crushed seeds with a knife on a cutting board)
1/4 cup lard
4 cloves of garlic
4 to 6 slices toasted rye bread 
Dice the potatoes. Boil in salted water with caraway seeds until tender. Add the lard. Mash the garlic with a pinch of salt and add to the soup. Serve with toasted rye bread. Serves 4 to 6.

I find it very satisfying that the recipe above is almost exactly like the recipe below, which is straight from Wallachia, the area where most of my family immigrated from, including my great grandfather Morkovsky.
Garlic Soup 
from Recipes of Wallachian Cooking, collected by Dalibor Jerabek
a pamphlet published by the Wallachian Open-Air Museum in Roznov pod Radhostem,
Czech Republic in 1993 
7 oz. garlic
53 oz. water
5 yolks
caraway seeds
crushed marjoram
.3 ounces margarine
7 oz. toasted bread 
Add crushed garlic, spices, margarine to the boiling water and simmer. Put the yolk in a soup bowl and pour soup over it. You may also add sliced smoked meat or sausage or boiled potatoes. Serve with the toasted bread. 
The pamphlet says "Czech and Moravian cooking is known for its many thickened soups and sauces. Most common are the recipes using potatoes, sauerkraut and legumes because Moravian and first of all Wallachian cooking took products mainly from local sources."


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