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Cesky Vecer 2018

I sometimes feel like Austin, though it’s the heart of the state, is a barren wasteland of Texas Czech culture. Rarely does a polka band play here. (Yes, they do play, but rarely.) It’s not possible to find a decent kolach. There are no traditionally Czech Catholic churches, so no picnics are held like the ones that happen in small, rural towns in the Texas “Czech Belt.” The University of Texas’ Center for Russian and East European Studies sometimes has fantastic lectures, but they’re scheduled during the weekday for students or retired folks, so I never get to attend. The Travis-Williamson Counties Czech Heritage Society chapter meets monthly, but in Pflugerville or Taylor on a weekday night, making it impossible to attend with a full-time job and child in school in far south Austin. (Austin traffic!!!) 
I sometimes forget that there are thousands of people in this city that probably have some Czech family history. This feeling made me appreciate even more the Cesky Vecer event held…

How to Eat Texas Czech in October

October is Czech Heritage Month in Texas. What a fitting excuse to eat and learn about Czech and Texas Czech traditional foods. At the bottom of this post are several events at which you can do just that.

If you want to cook Czech food in October, by all means cook local and seasonal. In Texas in October, there are lots of fruits and vegetables to buy at your local farmers market that are widely used in the Texas Czech kitchen. Here are some suggestions.


apples and pears - make kolach fillings, pies, and bundt cakes, or pear preservescauliflower - make fried cauliflower or pickled cauliflowercabbage - make sauerkraut, fried cabbage, zelniky (cabbage kolaches), slaw, or sauerkraut saladokra - make stewed okra with tomatoes
Last weekend I tried yet another sauerkraut recipe (pictured above), this one with apples and potatoes. It was just the right balance of sweet and sour and rich and tangy. I used Granny Smith apples so things didn't get too sweet and served it with pan-fried sausag…

33rd Caldwell Kolache Festival

In 2013 and 2015, I was a judge at the Caldwell Kolache Festival. This year, because of baking so many kolaches in the last 2 months after starting a home-based cottage food business, I decided to enter the baking contest. Though I’ve only been in business since the end of July, the proceeds I’ve made from the business just barely exceeded the limit over which I am considered a “professional.”  Needless to say, baking in my apartment one pan at a time could not compete with the likes of Pearl Snap in Fort Worth (2018 Reserve Professional Grand Champion) and Zamykal Kolaches in Dallas (2018 Professional Grand Champion), both commercial bakeries cranking out huge (and huge numbers of) kolaches. I did not even place, but wasn’t surprised either.

The morning of the contest, I had my alarm set for 3:30 a.m. This was going to give me enough time to make dough for 48 kolaches, fill, and bake them, shower etc., while the dough was rising, get my 9 year old up and ready to go, and be out the…

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" …