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Showing posts from 2016

On Creating an Annual Texas Czech Food Calendar

This post is comprised of random thoughts about creating an annual calendar or schedule for cooking and enjoying Texas Czech food by the season, by the holiday, by the event. It's inspired by my friend Sarah Junek who keeps reminding me of the importance of staying connected to our food roots. She wrote to me "I’d like to get people back to making staple foods and eating healthier stuff from home, but also those dishes that rotate as part of what it means to be at so-in-so’s table. Like it was when you got X from aunt so-and-so and Y at grandma’s house. That’s the kind of concept I’d love to be part of... resetting the cooking culture back about 80 years."  I couldn't agree with her more. In my day to day life, I eat out more on weeknights than I cook at home, which doesn't please me, but is so often a necessity. Creating a Texas Czech food calendar will be a way for me to encourage myself and others to take advantage of what's available when it is. And to ma…

Buchta with Nuts and Raisins

In his photo book Journeys into Czech Moravian Texas, author Sean N. Gallup wrote a few paragraphs about food in contemporary Texas- Czech culture. During his fieldwork, he observed "Other Texas-Czech pastries [besides kolaches] include klobasniky.... and buchta, a larger fruit filled loaf.... " (Texas A&M University Press, 1998).

Though my grandmother made an apricot buchta (or she just called it a roll), more common buchty might be poppyseed or cream cheese. Less common seems to be the buchta I've made filled with nuts and raisins. The Czech word "buchta" doesn't seem to be surviving as well as the word "kolach" either, for though Gallup mentions it third in a list of common Texas Czech pastries, I've found it almost impossible to find a recipe in a community cookbook that actually uses the word buchta. Instead, I find recipes for "rolls".  Still, Westfest actually has a buchta category in it's annual baking contest. And po…

Breakfast in Galveston

Earlier this month, I was in Galveston staying at my sister and brother-in-law's beach house for the first "girlfriends weekend" I've ever hosted. This was a formidable group of women whose skills collectively include driving big trucks, directing an award-winning film, traveling to almost every continent on Earth, teaching history at the university level, and doing food writing for the likes of Gastronomica. I am blessed to know these women. We laughed, drank, colored, did each other's dishes, walked on the beach, and cooked for each other. 
I ended up making breakfast on Saturday morning. Along with baking kolaches, I wanted to do something savory that reflected my Texas-Czech heritage. Pan frying pork and garlic sausage was an easy decision, but I needed to accommodate a non-meat eater (who does eat eggs.) A search for vegan sausages at HEB rewarded me with a kielbasa-flavored product made by Tofurky. My cousin would not have to feel like she was being cheated …

Are You Related To...??

Earlier this year I was sitting with my 96-year old grandmother (my Dad's mother - Irene (Zielonka) Orsak) in Denton and we were looking through photos. There was a batch of really sweet pictures of her and my grandfather in 1940 or '41 at LeTulle Park in Bay City with another couple their same age... drinking sodas, climbing trees, horsing around. There was a label on the back of one photo that said "Mrs. Edwin Junek." My grandmother told me they were friends with Edwin and his wife, but didn't remember her name.
That same week I got a notice in my email about an article that had just come out in Edible Houston magazine about the kolach baker Lydia Faust in Snook and it was written by a Sarah Junek (whose family has roots in Snook.) The name was so unusual to me that I contacted Edible Houston and asked them to send my contact info to Sarah. I was, at the time, working on my own article (on Texas Czech picnics) for Edible Austin magazine so thought we'd have …

Homemade Saurkraut in Jourdanton

Today at work, I noticed a jar of Trader Joe’s sauerkraut someone had in the refrigerator. The jar was $4 or $5. In my freezer is a quart of sauerkraut that I paid only $3 for and which was made with so much love, history, cultural knowledge, family, and dedication that it’s actually priceless. There are men and women around Texas who are going above and beyond to not just maintain, but actively pass on Texas Czech food traditions…. farmers, bakers, sausage makers, picnic coordinators, and other heroes. My second cousin, Susan Netardus, is one of these people. Susan gives six weeks of every summer over to fermenting sauerkraut at her house, so that it can be served to at least 600 parishioners and visitors at St. Matthew’s Catholic Church’s Czech Day (always the third Sunday in July.) The church is in Jourdanton and Susan is in her second term as mayor of the town of a little more than 4,000 people… mayor of the town she was born in in 1964. The majority of attendees are actually from…

150 Years in Texas

This month marks the 150th anniversary of my Orsak family being in Texas, according to my great-great-great grandfather's Record of Declaration, which notes that he "arrived at the port of Galveston on or about the 1st day of July 1866."

At our annual family reunion (for our downline of Orsaks) late last month, this momentous occasion was marked with a little speech from my father and signage in the door prize plants. We went about our usual reunion activities... sharing lots of food, children whacking a piƱata, selling our baked goods to each other in the silent auction, telling embarrassing stories about when we were kids, listening to Don Orsak play the accordion, and visiting.

Czech foods were most abundant in the silent auction. People could outbid each other (for the good of next year's auction) to take home an apricot/cheese roll, kolaches by two different women, a cheese roll with pecans on top, a poppyseed roll, buttermilk pie, and five or six different kin…

Picnicking

Though you probably think this post is going to be about Texas Czech church picnics, it's actually about just a regular family picnic last Saturday, which was International Picnic Day (always celebrated on June 18th.) In honor, my son and I headed out to a local park. But, of course, I used it as an opportunity to explore traditional Texas Czech food and diverge with inspiration a bit, as well, and luckily my youngest son will eat almost anything.

It was hot, there was no breeze, there were ants and flies, but it's always fun to eat outside. Actually, it's more than fun. I personally love spreading a blanket on the ground instead of sitting at a picnic table.  There's something magical and romantic about relaxing under a canopy of trees and lazily sampling a little of this and a little of that. My youngest son and I have spent many glorious mornings in Zilker Park in Austin eating a breakfast picnic after dropping my older son off at the ungodly hour of 7am for cross co…