Kolache Evolution: Kolache Festivals and Czech Heritage (Part 4)


STEF SHAPIRA

Photo from Flickr. Some rights reserved by jefferysclark

Photo from Flickr. Some rights reserved by jefferysclark

For those living in Central Texas, kolaches are a part of every day life. Whether they stop to get kolaches on family road trips, eat them fresh out of the box with junior-high-school friends the morning after a slumber party, or bring a fresh dozen to the office to share with co-workers, kolaches are food commonly eaten by many Texans.

However, most people in the United States have never even heard of a kolache, let alone tasted one. It was only when I left Houston for a job in New York City in 2004 and discovered that kolaches were virtually impossible to find, that I began to really think about what kolaches are and why they became such a staple in Texas.

After some preliminary research, I learned that kolaches, a yeast bread traditionally filled with fruit, cheese, or a combination of the two, were brought to the U.S. with Czech immigrants, many of who settled as farmers in Texas in the mid 1800s. The traditional pastry was a key food eaten in Czech daily life and immigrants in the U.S. continued to eat kolaches to hold onto their Czech heritage and identity in a new land.

As times changed, so did kolaches. The pastry began to be eaten by Texans of various ethnic groups who changed not only the fillings, but the idea of what a kolache is. I argue that the kolache has evolved over time to become not only a Czech food, but also a distinctly Texan one. Thus, kolaches have become just as much of a symbol of identity for Texans as for the Czech people who brought kolaches to Texas in the first place.

No matter what specific kolache one prefers, the traditional Czech pastry has undeniably become a food that is intertwined with nostalgia for both Czech descendants and all Texans alike.

The kolache has been taken over by the melting pot of ethnic groups in Texas to evolve from a purely Czech food to one that uniquely Texan. Although the kolache has changed over time in the way it tastes and how it is eaten, it has consistently acted as a symbol of identity for those leaving home for the promise of a better life in a new place.

Kolache Festival. Photo by amyeetx, via flickr. Some rights reserved.

Kolache Festival. Photo by amyeetx, via flickr. Some rights reserved.

Kolache Festivals and Czech Heritage

The cultural and technological changes referred to in Part 3 of this series caused kolaches to evolve into less of a purely Czech food. Kolaches started to become eaten less prevalently by Czech immigrants, who had begun to eat all the other types of foods at their disposal. Many Texans, including myself before I began my research, did not even know kolaches are Czech. Instead, they are now simply seen as a food that is easily accessible and commonly eaten in Central Texas.

Additionally, Czechs began to marry those of non-Czech lineage, and the heritage of the homeland started to dwindle. To maintain the Czech identity that was diminishing, Czechs in Texas began holding kolache festivals. The two most popular are in West and Burleson County.  It is not only the kolache itself that is celebrated at these festivals, but all aspects of the Czech heritage including music and crafts.

The website for the kolache festival in Burleson County may best describe the sentiment behind the festival:

The Kolache Festival is a celebration of the revitalization of Czech heritage… a county that was basically a Czech settlement realized their precious identity was slipping away. New generations knew not the language, the music or the art of their ancestors. Not only do we grasp at the past, but we hurry to share the history…to bring into today’s focus the beauty, talent, and delight of the Czech people…Taste the true ethnic food and lend your soul to the fulfillment of the Czech cultural heritage. (burlesoncountytx.com)

Trays of kolaches at the festival. Photo by Stef Shapiro.

Trays of kolaches at the festival. Photo by Julie Riley

A group of vendors from area Texas bakeries set up booths at these festivals to sell kolaches to attendees. The little pastries are in high demand — approximately 26,000 kolaches sold out in five hours at the 28th Annual Burleson County festival in 2012.

Powers has set up a Zamykal Kolache booth at the festival every year since 2007, and spent two months of non-stop baking to prepare enough kolaches for the festival in 2012. “The festival is a very important [one] because it’s a demonstration of our Czech heritage,” says Powers. “Kolaches are something that came from the Old World. Every family, no matter where you’re from, you always want to cling to your heritage. It reminds you of how hard life was.”

These kolache festivals are not only a way for Czechs to share their heritage with others, but a place for Texans to celebrate one of their favorite regional foods. At any one of these festivals you may find people of Hispanic, Asian, or German descent in addition to the local Czechs. The culmination of various groups that come together to celebrate the kolache shows how the same food can be simultaneously part of Czech and Texan culture.

Judging kolaches at the festival. Photo by Stef Shapiro.

Judging kolaches at the festival. Photo by Julie Riley

……….

Works Cited in This Series

1. “City of West.” Web.  11 May 2010.  <http://west-tx.com/>.

2. “Come Be Czech for a Day!”  BurlesonCountyTX.com.  Web.  18 December

2012. <http://www.burlesoncountytx.com/KolacheFestival/Kolache%20Festival.html&gt;

3. “Crazy Kolache Lady.”  YouTube.com.  Video Clip. 18 December 2012.

<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NHQz5N8HDl4>.

4. “Czech Texans.” TexasAlmanac.com.  Web.  18 December 2012.

<http://www.texasalmanac.com/culture/groups/czech.html>.

5. CzechStop.net. Web.  16 December 2012.

<http://www.czechstop.net/menu.php>.

6. “Dorothy Bohac’s Kolache Recipe.”  TexasMonthly.com. 1998.  Web.

18 December 2012. <https://www.texasmonthly.com/food/recipefiles/Breakfast/1998-11-01/recipe3.php>.

7. KolacheFactory.com.  Web. 18 December 2012.

<http://kolachefactory.com/&gt;

8.  KountryBakery.com.  Web. 16 December 2012.

<http://kountrybakery.com/Merchant2/index.html>.

9. “Mrs. Jerabek’s Kolache Recipe.” TexasMonthly.com. November 1998.

Web.  18 December 2012. <http://www.texasmonthly.com/food/recipes/9811.kolache.1.php>.

10. “Tabor: A Little Czech Town on the American Prairie.”

YouTube.com.  Video Clip. 11 May 2010.

<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4vm_yhEUtJ8>.

11. Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin

and Spread of Nationalism. Revised Edition.  London and New York: Verso, 1991, 5-7.  Print.

12. Bizova, Joza.  Cooking the Czech Way. London: Spring Books, 1960.

13. Dunn, Chris.”Homeade Kolaches.” Houston Chronicle. July 12, 2011.

14. Faust, Lydia. Personal interview. 14 September 2012.

15. Fain, Lisa. Personal interview. 7 December 2012.

16. Fain, Lisa.  “Kolaches: A Sweet Escape.”

HomesickTexan.blogspot.com.  Web.  18 December 20112.

<http://homesicktexan.blogspot.com/2007/03/sweet-escape-kolaches.html&gt;.

17. Fiala, Lyla  and Kathryn Schilling.  Czech Cooking and Collected

Recipes of Helen Fiala. Iowa Falls, Iowa: General Publishing and Binding, 1986.

18. Gabriel, Sarah. “The Great Texas Kolache Crawl.” America’s Test Kitchen.

September 20, 2012. Web. 22 December 2012.  <http://www.americastestkitchenfeed.com/field-notes/2012/09/the-great-texas-kolache-crawl/>

19. Gargiulo, Maria and Marcus Samuelsson.  “Food and Culture.”  The

Meaning of Food.  DVD.  Alexandria, VA:PBS Home Video, 2005.

20. Gutirrez, C. Paige.  “Cajuns and Crawfish.”  The Taste of American

Place.  Ed. Barbara G. Shortridge and James R. Shortridge. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 1998. 139-144.  Print.

21. Kaplan, Anne R., Marjorie A. Hoover, and Willard B. Moore.  “Introduction:

On Ethnic Foodways.” The Taste of American Place.  Ed. Barbara G.

Shortridge and James R. Shortridge. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman &

Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 1998. 121-133.  Print.

22. Lockwood, Yvonne R. and William G. Lockwood.  “Pasties in Michigan’s

Upper Peninsula :  Foodways, Interethnic Relations, and Regionalism.” The Taste of American Place.  Ed. Barbara G. Shortridge and James R. Shortridge. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 1998. 21-36.  Print.

23. Martin, Peter. Czechoslovak Culture: Recipes, History and Folk Art. Ed.

John Zug . Iowa City, IA: Penfield Press, 1989.  Print.

24. McLeod, Gerald E. “Day Trips.” Austin Chronicle. August 10, 2012.

25. Powers, Jody. Personal interview. 15 September 2012.

26. Ray, Krishnendu. The Migrant’s Table: Meals and Memories in Bengali

Households. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 2004.  Print.

27. Rychlick, Joe. Personal interview. 14 September 2012.

28. Sebesta, Ann. Personal interview. 14 September 2012.

29. Stanford, Autumn. Personal interview. 26 November 2012.

30. Stern, Michael. “Village Bakery.” RoadFood.com. Web. 22 December 2012.

    < http://www.roadfood.com/Restaurant/Review/6460-6663/village-bakery&gt;

31.Sutton, David.  Remembrance of Repasts: An Anthropology of Food

and Memory.  Oxford: Berg, 2001.  Print.

32. Voros, Sharon. “Move Over, Tex-Mex, It’s Tex-Czech.” New York Times.

August 26, 1990. Web. 22 December 2012.

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2 thoughts on “Kolache Evolution: Kolache Festivals and Czech Heritage (Part 4)

  1. Since we don’t live in Texas any more, we miss the weekly kolache offerings! Whether it was someone bringing them into the office or making a Saturday morning run…a “sausage roll” just isn’t the same as a good kolache!

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