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.
As promised, I took another stab at doing the chicken kiev. This time I made it for my folks over Thanksgiving. I even made some for Grandma, but I’ll get to that in a bit. I took some extra care when I was butterflying and pounding out the chicken breasts and it worked out much better. Also, I used a gallon baggie instead of plastic wrap, which was an amazing difference in the ease of the whole process. I finally got the seasoning right, so they didn’t taste like a salt lick. They still leaked all over the pan, but I didn’t care because they tasted great. The breasts that I picked up were still attached to the breast bone and ribs so I had to do some minor butchering to get them ready. In the process I ended up with a large and small muscle from each breast. After trying to figure out what to do with the small ones, I eventually came to the “what the hell, I’ll give it a shot” idea of making mini-kiev’s. They ended up being slightly larger than a jalapeño popper. This solved my problem of what to give to Grandma. She really doesn’t eat large meals anymore, plus she has never liked leftovers, so my logic was that she could microwave a couple and keep the rest in the freezer for later. Yeah. They never made it to the freezer. She had a meal of them and less than a week later, she finished them off.
Not very seriously, but I am tossing ideas around as how to make these quicker and easier because I would like to get them into our regular supper rotation. I may just end up making a crap load over one weekend and freezing them uncooked to be pulled out on short notice. I’ve also given some thought to the idea of cutting a cavity to stuff thereby bypassing the butterfly / pound / roll steps. Whatever I decide, I’m sure I’ll post it here.
I love my Grandma. She’s 93 years old, still lives in the same farm house she has lived in for the last 60-ish years, and she is not afraid to let you know what she thinks. For example, when I brought Lindsay home to meet my family for the first time, my Grandma commented that “It was about time that I bring someone home.” Yup, direct quote. One of the other reasons that I love my Grandma is because she is one of my inspirations of what food can taste like and the joy that it can bring.
One thing that I grew up on is headcheese. Whenever I tell people that this is one of my favorite foods, I always get one of two reactions. The first option is “Uh, what is that?”, and the second is “Really? People actually eat that???” First, headcheese is a terrine made with the meat off of a pig’s head. This is a fancy way of saying that it is meat suspended in flavorless gelatin. Sounds good, right? To answer the second question, I have only found one person outside of my family that likes it. Narren grew up eating it as well, and I want to thank him for making my family look normal. But yes, people do eat this.
I’ve always eaten it with a little bit of ground pepper on top and a splash of white vinegar. It tastes just like a pork chop that is served cold. I think it’s a texture thing with most people who actually try it. I really don’t understand it because I can’t think of a single person out there who doesn’t like jello. I’m sure that they are out there, but I don’t know any of them. I’m not judging, I’m just saying I don’t get it.
This has been a very long route to what I wanted to get at: My Grandma made headcheese!!!