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Showing posts from 2015

I Am A Migl

At a meeting of the Austin Czech Historical Association two years ago, a woman speaking from theTexas Czech Heritage and Cultural Center (TCHCC) in La Grange mentioned the different historic homes that had been donated and moved to the center's grounds, including the Migl house. Migl is the maiden name of my maternal grandfather's mother, Theresa (Migl) Kallus. When the speaker said the names of the couple who built the house near Praha - Johanna and Frantisek Migl - I got excited.


Sure enough, I came home and pulled out my genealogy stuff and they were my great great grandparents. They came to Texas in 1874 with their four youngest children, including my grandfather's mother, Theresa, who was two years old at the time. Johanna and Frantisek built the house now at the TCHCC in 1890, the year Theresa married my great grandfather, Alois Kallus. You can read a little history of the house on the TCHCC website here.

I had been to the TCHCC several times, but had never gone int…

Big Czechs/Little Czechs Family Day - October 10th, Temple

I spent the morning hand cutting 560 paper leaves for this coming Saturday's "Big Czechs/Little Czechs" Family Day at the Czech Heritage Museum in Temple. This is the opening event for the exhibit I co-curated, Texas Czechs: Rooted in Tradition. After a very successful 3 months at the Institute of Texas Cultures (ITC) in San Antonio, we moved the exhibit to Temple just in time for Czech Heritage Month in Texas (October). It will be on display there through January 9, 2016.


"Big Czechs/Little Czechs" (1-4pm on the 10th) will be an afternoon of activities, mostly for preschool and elementary age, to help kids either connect with their own Czech heritage or learn about Texas Czech cultural traditions in a fun way. Bring your children and grandchildren - dress up in kroj with master seamstress Maggie Grmela, make PlayDoh kolaches, play an accordion,make a family tree (what the hand cut leaves are for), learn what "pupek" means. And, of course, you can see …

Food is Love

“Taught by family members in South Central Texas, husband and wife Steve and Betty Orsak have canned, pickled, and preserved foods together since the early 1970s. Their Czech heritage influences their choice of recipes and produce.” 

These words about my parents came from the program of the 2008 Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington D.C. where, with 10 other participants that summer, they represented Texas cooking to the world. It is an apt description since their 50-year marriage, their Czech heritage, and their creativity and generosity with food form the bedrock of love in our family. They celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary last week.

When my parents married in 1965, society’s expectation was that my father would be the breadwinner and my mother would be the bread baker (and the maker of everything else.) But growing, cooking, shopping for, planning around, preserving, and sharing food offered, over 50 years, opportunities for them to be and do things together and th…

Family Reunions 2015

This summer I've attended two annual family reunions (Morkovsky and Orsak... at least my branch of the Orsaks - there a thousands of us in Texas!) and began helping to plan a third (Migl.) I have the opportunity to go to 4 reunions every other year and 5 in the years in between. At least I try to make them all.

The Orsak reunion was near Ganado on Lake Texana - a central location since many in our family still live in South Central Texas. I didn't just attend the reunion, it was my family's turn to host the event. 

The Morkovsky reunion was in Hallettsville in Lavaca County, where the family's patriarch and matriarch spent most of their lives. The oldest living member of the family reported that he thought this was the 80th annual reunion, which would make the photo below taken in 1936 at the 2nd annual reunion.


I tend to think about different issues regarding the reunions in different years. Sometimes I'm looking forward to seeing particular people; some years I'…

How to Cook Local in Hallettsville

Last weekend, I was in Hallettsville with my parents and brother and, with the chance to all cook together, I wanted to take advantage of any local products I could find. My parents buy produce from local farmers in Lavaca County for canning... cucumbers, beets, tomatoes. And the noodles for my extended family's Christmas gathering have often been bought straight from the noodle maker on her front porch.

But what about cooking for a Saturday night dinner or Sunday breakfast for just four people? My mom knew there was a farmers market starting that Saturday on the square, so we headed there first. We were disheartened seeing only two tables set up, but those two tables yielded a wide assortment of products... and both farming families were Czech. From Greg Hermes (Hermes Farms), we bought his last dozen eggs from White Longhorn chickens, zucchini, soup noodles made that week, raspberry-fig jam, and cucumbers. From Triple S Traditions (Paul, Lisa and Hope Shimek), we bought yellow …

Kolache World Domination starts with D.C.

My sister-in-law directed me to the recent Houstonian article titled "Consider the Kolache: Is Our Beloved Czech Pastry Poised for World Domination?" My answer would be "I don't know," but someone who might give a tentative "heck, yes" is Spring, Texas native Chris Svetlik. His new bakery Republic Kolache Co. is poised (launching in D.C. in the next 6 to 8 weeks) to at least dominate our nation's capitol.


The subject of kolaches has put me into contact with everyone from Chris in D.C. to Autumn at Brooklyn Kolache Company, John T. Edge writing for the New York Times, to reporters in Prague, which is fun. This may be some evidence that perhaps kolaches are poised for world domination. Chris, who I'd never met, was in Austin last week and contacted my Texas Czechs exhibit cohort Lori and I to "chat Czech-Texan heritage (as well as pick [our] brain a bit more about research on the kolache and the general Czech culture/cuisine front)." M…

Texas-Czech Cook Joe Novosad

I first met author and family historian Joe Novosad of Inks Lake by telephone. We are both members of the Travis-Williamson Counties Czech Heritage Society and Joe had submitted several very traditional recipes for the Society’s 1996 cookbook. I was told that Joe was a wealth of information about Czech food and that I should just call him out of the blue and he would be happy to talk. He was! I had no idea how important Joe’s experiences and generosity in sharing them were to a history of Texas Czech food.

Joe is a second generation Texas Czech, born in Frydek, Texas in 1928. He graduated from Sealy High School in 1946 and married his high school sweetheart, Helen Remmert, in 1947. He served in the Marine Corps, studied electronics and engineering at the University of Houston, and worked as an electronics instructor at Houston Community College.
Joe’s parents were Joseph, born in Live Oak Hill, near Ellinger, and Louise (Kutra) Novosad, born in Sealy. They were sharecroppers, eventually…