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The George and Anita Kallus House

Photo by Dougal Cormie “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”  -William Faulkner  On the west side of Hallettsville in Lavaca County, there’s a large, white house on Highway Alt. 90 that’s been vacant since 2010. It’s my maternal grandparents’ house and my grandmother (our Datu) lived there for over 70 years. (Her husband died in 1979.) My mother (born in 1947) and all her siblings were brought home from the hospital to that house, except my Uncle A. J., who was born inside in June of 1940, when the Lavaca River rose so high, my grandparents couldn’t get to the hospital. Though my grandmother died in 2012, the family still owns the house and has been gathering there ever since. As a complete group, we’ve gotten together only once a year, if that, but smaller groups of us have met there for Easter, for my brother’s 40th birthday, to attend various events in Hallettsville, to retreat from our busy lives for a weekend, or just to visit with each other. In 2019, we held
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Squash Patties and Tomato Gravy

It's summer in Texas, so tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants, peppers, okra, and squash are all in abundance. And since it's summer, both my sons are away in different states at the moment, so my ability to cook and eat vegetables to my heart's content is also abundant. I've been scouring community cookbooks, my collection of recipes, and my grandmother's clippings for summer vegetable dishes and pulled out this one from "Molly's Corner ," a column written by Hallettsville native, Molly Pesek. According to her obituary, Molly (1925-1986) was also a correspondent for the Victoria Advocate for some time. She was also the vice president of Pesek Memorial Company, which produced the headstone for my mother's grave in Hallettsville. I don't know if my grandmother knew Molly, but she had clipped many, many of her recipes from the Lavaca County Tribune, some with a Texas-Czech bent, some not. Molly also self-published a cookbook, "Molly's

Failing at Koblihy and Bozi Milosti for Masupost

Happy Fat Tuesday!   In the Czech Catholic tradition, the period of days leading up to Ash Wednesday is called Masupost and is similar to what American Southerners know as Mardi Gras, and Carnival that Brazilians celebrate. It’s a time of food, music, costumes, and revelry before the self denial of Lent, the 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter.  An article on the Czech Expats website declares five “sinful” foods to have during Masupost , presumably dishes to gorge on before giving up things like sugar or fried foods during Lent. The list includes koblihy (according to the article’s author, “ Masopust wouldn’t be Masopust without a batch of Czech carnival donuts”), and bozi milosti . These are fried squares or triangles of unleavened dough sprinkled with powdered sugar. My mother made neither of these things, and my aunts don’t remember their mother, my grandmother, making them either. However, in an oral interview done with my grandmother in the 1990s, she remember

Jidlo, Pivo, Vino

On July 20th, my good friend Lori and I hosted a dinner party at her home and we called it Jidlo, Pivo, Vino (Food, Beer, Wine). The goal was to expose friends to food popular in the Texas Czech community that didn't include the three things most people think about (kolaches, sausage, or sauerkraut.) We wanted to be seasonal and we made everything from scratch (unless otherwise noted.) Our menu is below along with lots of photos taken by us and attending friends (who I thank for their generosity in sharing... Don Jansky, Zoy Kocian, Sarah Shephard.) A special thank you to Roberta Vasek for homemade peach cobbler and Robin Graham-Moore for home baked rohlicky. Thank you to everyone who brought wine, beer, and slivovitz . And to Lori's husband Glen for indulging us and putting up with it all.  Some things I learned: My mom's fried chicken recipe is rock solid but I will never fry chicken for 20 people again. (Took 2 hours.) Dinner parties are AWESOME. I wish w

1st Annual Kallus Chili Cook-Off and Reunion

Earlier this month, cousins and aunts and uncles from my mother's side of the family met in Hallettsville at my grandparents' house (who are both deceased) for what we hope will be the first annual Kallus Reunion and Chili Cook Off. My grandparents were Texas Czechs 100%; both of their fathers were actually born in Moravia. But steaming, spicy chili runs deep in the veins of their descendants, supporting the "Texas" half of us being Texas Czech. I spent many weekends in junior high and high school at cook offs around South Central Texas. My father and the team he was a part of (which included friends and my Uncle Johnny Kallus) won many chili contests, but also barbecue, beans, sauce, and "wild card" contests. My father and his team even represented Texas at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in 1996, hauling their huge barrel barbecue pit all the way to the National Mall in Washington D.C. to do cooking demonstrations. The chili recipe his team (Bull H

Preserving Produce: The Sweet, Sour, and Savory

Sometimes when you start to think about a subject, you notice more and more references in the world to it. Suddenly it's randomly brought up in conversations, you might see signs for it, or run across it in a store or in the media. So it's been these last few weeks for me with canning. After two family reunions, visits with cousins, and a trip to the farmers market on my way through Luling, I amassed quite a pantry full of items, more than I've ever had at one time. And such diversity, which really speaks to the bounty of Texas in the different areas that my relatives live, their personal tastes, and what's traditional to their family. I ended up with 16 jars of different things. Above are pickled beets (Don and Gladys Orsak from our Orsak reunion), hot dill pickles from Mikesh Produce in Luling, pear butter (cousin Ann Adams in Floresville), and apricot habanero jelly, made by cousin Rose Cofer and won in the silent auction at the Morkovsky reunion in Hallet