Thursday, February 02, 2012

Homesick Texan - Kolaches!

Recently, my dear wife, Amelia (the principal author of this blog, though long absent from it), got a new cookbook: The Homesick Texan by Lisa Fain (Hyperion, 2011) [check out here blog here].  Maybe I can convince Amelia to get back on here and write something about the book and how it makes her feel.

From my point of view, just owning the book makes her feel loved. Loved just by being known and understood in ways that any ex-patriot to their homeland can relate to, especially as it relates to food.  What is it about food that just grabs your heartstrings and yanks you 'home'?  Whatever it is, this book does it for my wife. And for me.  I am strangely weak-at-the-knees when I see full-blown pictures of 'Gorditas' and 'San Antonio Tortillas' and 'Brisket'....Yum. Mouth-watering, eye-glazing yum.

But this post is about yesterday's first venture into said cookbook, and what's on the menu is kolaches.

I can't say I know a lot about kolaches.  In fact, my first thought when I looked at these big pastries, was 'Huh, that's not what I had pictured in my head.'  Kolaches are Czech by origin.  Brought to Texas by that wave of Czech migration in about the 1860's (as I remember it; you can 'czech' my facts online, here or maybe here?, or chime in with your own link), the kolache of my memory is firmly rooted in West, TX, just north of Waco.  Anyone driving down I-35, will certainly notice the big signs at the gas stations by the roadside signaling, 'Kolaches For Sale'.  And while I'd have sworn I'd stopped and had one before I certainly hadn't had one like these.

So, a kolache is an almost donut-like, pastry with a big dollop of cream-cheese in the middle.  Amelia made these with just a hint of 'lemon' and they were good!  These were big and thick, but what I really liked about them was that they were just the right sweetness and just the right texture.  Not too sweet that I felt like I was eating a danish and not too flaky or spongy that I was eating a crescent roll or pound cake.  The experience was something in-between all these and it was nice.

Half of one was enough for me and even though our boys LOVE sweet pastries none of them ate the whole of theirs.  It was a bit too much for them.  So, maybe they could have been made smaller, but 'smaller' and 'Texan' don't go so well together, so I'll say they were just right.  Anyhow give 'em a try!

My parting note is less about taste and more about where this food 'takes me'/'yanks me':
My girlfriend in high school, her family hailed from this part of Texas, just a few miles north of West, from Abbott, TX.  She always spoke of Abbott like it was 'home' for them.  Catholic, small, and quaint; with a Truck Wash as its main highway presence.  I went there once with her.  You felt like everyone in the town knew you were a visitor and everyone knew I, at least, wasn't Czech.  (My girlfriend had blonde, super-curly hair that signaled her ethnic heritage, even if she didn't grow up there.)

But the key thing to know is that West and Abbott are joined by 'Willie Nelson Rd' for a reason: Abbott is Willie's hometown.  Now you know.  So, hey, if Kolaches are good enough for Willie, they're good enough for you and me, right?

They are if they're made this way, thanks to my wife and Lisa and Fain.  And if they're made a long way from Willie's house, they're even better still.


Hines Family said...

Mmmm, kolaches. Speaking the love-language of another homesick Texan. I frequented the Czech Stop in West Texas regularly for a decade (1990-2001). Almost without exception, the journey from Austin to Dallas and back again included a stopover in Texas to buy a bag -- sometimes a box -- of various kinds of kolaches.

Hence our joy when the Cafe Kolache opened up in Beaver, PA while we were at Trinity.

Hence our sadness that one has yet to open in Kabale.

Kelly said...

They were really yummy!! Thanks for sharing with friends! I didn't realize you made them, I thought they were bought! And any time you guys want to try recipes from that cookbook we are game to participate!

Anonymous said...

i liked this post, jon! it was mouthwateringly written, with all of my favorite key words: "texas, czech, food, gorditas, yum"