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Showing posts from 2018

Fairy Tales and Gingerbread

In the last few months, I’ve read a couple of books of fairy tales for grown ups--The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter and What is Not Yours is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi. The latter is short stories actually, but many of them read like fairy tales, especially the very creepy “Dornička and the St. Martin’s Day Goose,” a strange retelling of the classic Little Red Riding Hood and the wolf story, set in the present day. I bought the book after hearing a favorable NPR review and have been attracted to short stories lately, trying to balance my absolute love of reading with the fact that I have so little time to do it.
All I knew of the book was that it is a collection of stories built around the idea of keys and that the author is British. So I was greatly surprised when I got to the Dornička story, which began with a quote in Czech from the fairy tale “The Golden Spinning Wheel,” as told by Karol Jaromír Erben (a 19th-century Czech archivist and folklorist.) Oyeyemi’s story takes place …

Breakfast for Dinner (Texas Czech Style)

On a recent trip to my local farmers’ market, the words “Czech sausage” jumped out at me from Richardson Farms’ chalkboard sign in front of their booth. Richardson Farms is near Rockdale, but they sell their meats, poultry, and grains at several farmers markets around the state and at a few brick and mortar markets in Austin. Richardson Farms’ makes fresh pork sausage, which means it’s not cured. Though fresh sausage can be stuffed into a casing or loose, I think of fresh Czech sausage as specifically loose, and then cooked by pan frying it. What makes the sausage “Czech” according the always-super-nice guys working the Richardson Farm’s booth?... garlic. Lots of it. I bought a pound, so excited to find the flavors of Czech Texas creeping across party lines, but staying authentic to it’s origins.
This find coincided with reading some pages in Robert Skrabanek’s book We’re Czechs in which he described a typical family breakfast growing up in the Czech community of Snook in Burleson C…

What I Learned Making 600 Kolaches

The last week in July, I launched a home baking business called Old School Kolaches, offering pans of made from scratch kolaches, delivered to customers' doors. I got laid off in April and in reaction to scrolling endlessly through disheartening job boards at 50 years old, I decided I'd try doing something I'm good at and passionate about that also pays some of my bills (work and love don't always go together unfortunately.) It remains to be seen whether this can be instead of or in additional to a standard 9 to 5 job for me.

Austin, though it's the state capitol, is a wasteland when it comes to traditional kolaches. The one place I went to here that had decent kolaches closed down only weeks ago. There are instead two kolache bakery chains, countless donut shops that offer hotdogs wrapped in croissants or tasteless dough and call them kolaches, or one hipster beer and kolaches place that "elevates the classic Central Texas Czech pastry to gourmet status" …

Fried Chicken

This is a very quick post about fried chicken and a recipe offering. Summer is for fried chicken, in my opinion… Fourth of July, eating at a local park’s picnic table, and church picnics. I sadly can’t make it to this year’s Prazska Pout in Praha, Texas on August 15th (Praha picnic plate in photo above) and haven’t been able to attend any of the other many picnics that serve fried chicken, so I’ve been lamenting the loss of opportunity to eat one of my favorite summer dishes.
I live in a very small apartment – the smell of whatever I cook becomes my abode’s air freshener for half a day, so I rarely fry foods. So, I suppose I’ve been craving fried chicken, and writing about it helps. So does reading Jay Francis’s blog (The Fried Chicken Blog) which I recommend to anyone interested in the subject. He has fantastic photos and videos about the Praha picnic specifically here, but check out the rest of the blog, too. Clearly Texas Czechs love fried chicken from its appearance on so many c…

At Memory's Table

I am overwhelmingly grateful to have been sitting “at memory’s table” my entire life. By that I mean, though my parents had moved me and my siblings to several states and back to Texas by the time I was in 4th grade, the people in my life were stable and family connections were so strong that absorbing our shared history was unavoidable.  And food was inseparable from that.

My parents are fascinated by both history and food. My maternal grandmother lived in her house (and her kitchen) for over 70 years. All branches of my grandparents’ families have had reunions—for decades and decades—with fantastic food. Though my parents were adventurous eaters, we definitely grew up with weeknight staple meals that all my siblings can name and remember. Tradition is extremely important for us, resulting in a Christmas eve meal that includes dishes served continuously for over a century. Historically people have lived a long time in my family, so my parents and I and my children all grew up loving…

Cucumber and Tomato Salad

My summer-in-Texas food memories are chock full of homemade ice cream, devilled eggs, barbecued chicken and pinto beans, popsicles, potato salad, Dr. Pepper, peach pie, grilled vegetables, homemade sausage, and cucumber and tomato salad, among other tasty things. These dishes were consumed at chili cook-offs, family reunions, 4th of July get-togethers, siblings’ summer birthdays, and church picnics. I was inspired to make the cucumber and tomato salad this week after buying cucumbers at the community grocery store called Hoffer’s, in Hallettsville, and a friend gifting me with a large orangey-red Sungold Medley tomato from Austin’s Farm to Table company. Many stalls at my local Sunset Valley Farmer’s Market also had cucumbers and tomatoes on offer this morning. I love the vibrant colors of the dish, the spicy raw onion and crisp cucumbers, and the bright flavors that are so dependent on the summer Texas sun. 

I think of the salad as a Texas Czech thing. "Salad" in the Czech …

Soup Swap/ In Praise of Teachers

Last month, at the end of my son's third grade year, parents were asked to bring soup one day for teachers to swap and take home. I looked through the list of soups people had already committed to bringing, wanting to do something different, and decided on Czech Lentil Soup (recipe below).

At the same time, for months now actually, I've been working on illustrating and self publishing my great grandfather's memoirs--that is, illustrated with photographs and personal papers of his that I've scanned. (Link below to purchase it, if you're inclined.) He was a schoolteacher in Fayette and Lavaca Counties in Texas from the mid 1890s into the 1950s. His personal papers and memoirs are a rich trove of information about Texas rural schools in the early 20th century and the Czech community at the time. From student attendance rolls to his work contracts with trustees to poems written out for students to copy for practicing handwriting, he saved an amazing number of historical…