My family is Catholic (with the stray Lutheran or two), so when my Grandfather Mike passed away back in ’76, a mass was said for him. That has turned into a yearly tradition which has been going strong ever since. As other relatives have passed away over the years, they have been added to the remembrance.
The mass is held at my parent’s church (which also used to be my grandparents) and afterwards, everyone heads over to the farm to BS and eat lunch. So I thought it would be fitting to use this as a post on the one year (-ish) anniversary of starting this blog. The reasoning is pretty simple. Family gatherings like these have been a major influence on my life, both culinarily and communally. I look forward to this event each and every year because it’s one of the few times that I get to see a large portion of my family. That and the food. The Czecks love to eat. And they love to eat good food.
I just want to point out that the food has been scaled back significantly as the years have gone by. The food this year completely covered the kitchen table and the desserts took up a decent portion of a counter.
As noted in a previous post, my nephew Cole helped me make a kale salad (I really promise this post is coming soon). My aunt Rosie (and hubby Gary) went to the State Fair this year and she sat through a twenty minute demonstration in order to get this wild rice salad recipe (at least I think this is the recipe). I’m glad she was patient because it was very good. It had avocado, steak, wild rice, and all sorts of other goodies in it. One of my other aunties, Mary Ann, had a freezer full of pheasant, so she used this opportunity to get rid of some of it. Much to everyone’s delight I might add. She fried off the pieces, made a pan gravy, and finished it off in the crockpot. She had some of the younger kids come up to her and tell her how good it was. It was really cute. Some of those kids have never had pheasant before. It warmed my heart that they were willing to try something completely new and even more that they liked it.
Mom was the one who made the sausages. She picked up five pounds of the polish at Thielen’s (as usual) and it all disappeared by the time everyone was through eating. It really is that good. I can’t talk up that meat locker enough.
I think there may have been a riot if my sis, Chell, didn’t make coffee cake. (I’ve posted the recipe before.) I don’t even care that she didn’t make the poppy seed version because she sent a whole apple one home with Lindz and me. If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m very easily bribed with food. It’s even easier when it’s really good homemade food.
I was joking with my cousin Jon about the popcorn balls that he brought. I asked him if he was trying to class up the Czeck gatherings by drizzling chocolate over them. He just smiled sheepishly and chuckled. Good enough of an answer because they were a chocolate-caramel delight.
I’ve tried for years to get Mom to sit down, relax for a minute, and grab a bite to eat. But she is having none of it. At this point, I ask the token question of if she needs help and then let her do her thing. For the record, I do gladly help when she asks for it.
As a final note, I am endlessly amused watching people on the farm. It started out many years ago with my cousins. They would run around like wild animals crawling over the hay bales, running through the woods, sitting on the tractors, chasing the cats, mooing at the cows, and spooking the chickens. Or what I would call a normal day. Now that my cousins are older and have kids of their own, I get to watch the next generation do the same thing. And you know what? It still hasn’t gotten old.
Note: This post is mostly just ramblings/reflections about my family, so feel free to skip it if you want.
Every year, Dad’s side gets together roughly a week after the new year’s to celebrate Christmas. Dad is one of nine kids, so coordinating any reunions can be a bit tricky. Quite a while back, they decided that non-holiday days would work out best. When I was very young and Grandma Rose was still living on the farm, everyone would gather there for everything. Now a days, the only time all of the Czecks gather at the farm is for the mass that is said every year for our deceased relatives. When Grandma moved to Royalton, all of our gatherings moved with her and took place in the social room in her apartment building. Then when she moved to assisted living, we started going to a diner in Rice. We’ve kept going there even after she passed (except for one Christmas where we went to my aunt & uncle’s). Sunday, we went for another Czeck Fest Reunion.
At one point I was looking around the room and mentally going over what each of my cousins, aunts, and uncles did for a living. This was prompted by my cousin Jon bringing his girlfriend to her first family gathering. Several of my uncles have owned grocery stores, one was high up in the meat department in a fairly large local grocery chain, and my dad took over the family farm. A large percentage of this generation hunt, fish or both. I have over thirty first-cousins, and I fall somewhere near the lower third in age, so there are quite a few that I barely know, much less could recognize on the street. So this is a compilation of those that I do know what they do. A decent portion of this generation is also involved in food in some fashion. At least one (possibly two) of my cousins work for a food wholesaler, one owns three locally well-known high-end candy stores (http://www.thechocolateox.com/), her brother is a sous chef out in Michigan at a five star restaurant (which I just found out he was a chef), one of her other brothers owns a butcher shop (http://anokameats.com/), one is currently studying food science, and my little sis is taking over from dad. A smaller, but not insignificant, portion of my cousins hunt and/or fish. This isn’t even counting all of the cooking, smoking, sausage making, etc., that they do for fun.
All of this came as a little bit of a shock to me for several reasons. First, never really thought about it because it’s just what every one did. More importantly, I never added it up in this type of category. Although it should come as no surprise. About six years ago, one of my distant cousins (from a different branch) compiled a genealogy of the Czecks dating back to Andreas Czech (b. 1724) in Silesia, Prussia. I’m the 8th generation in this patrilineal line. All of these men were either butchers or farmers. Guess it’s in the blood.
I think that’s enough rambling for now. As a visual treat, because I won’t share the candy, I’ll leave you with a picture of some candy that Loriese handed out.