A Slovak Party: lots and lots and lots of food

A Slovak Party with lots and lots of food

This last weekend my mother in law celebrated her 70th birthday. It was a big event, due to generous family sizes. We  set for 70 people, including children.

At a Slovak celebration, there must be about three times as much food planned as can actually be physically eaten, as my father found out at my own wedding. Before the ceremony, people gathered at the inlaws house for sandwiches, to sustain themselves through Mass. Afterwards, dinner was served and my father filled himself, thinking he had to last the rest of the night with that much food. Then the cakes and sweets came, and he made sure he didn’t miss out on those. A few hours later, to his surprise, came another meal. And, a few hours later, another. We only had three meals after the ceremony, the first brother to get married had the traditional five. Slovaks celebrate a wedding, however, till the late hours of the morning, usually finishing around 5 am. At our last family wedding, the great aunts and uncles, well into their 70’s, stayed until 3 am.  Read More

June 2015 Photos

I’m starting a new series with photos from the month that didn’t warrant a whole post but that I wanted to share anyway. I’ve shared some on Instagram but my new phone requires more work to put up a big camera photo, and therefore I get them up less.

This month I actually have photos since the end of April, so there are some spring ones in there as well.

Gaming, Austria
Sunrise on the former monastery in Gaming, Austria.

Mystery Flower
Despite looking like lilacs, these lilac coloured flowers were growing singly in my sister in law’s lawn. I have no idea what they are, but I saved them from the lawnmower.

Spring Leaves

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Children’s Civil Defence Education

Children's Civil Defence

For a couple days my second daughter was excitingly looking forward to “CO” (tse-oh) and finally on the morning of  I asked my husband what “CO” meant. CO stands for civilna ochrana, literally civil defence, although it really means emergency preparedness.

This year, CO was in memory of Peter Opalek, a policeman from the neighbouring town. Last year he was shot while doing routine car stops along the road. It was a shock to all of Slovakia, as shootings are rare occurrences here.

The emergency preparedness training for children in Smolenice started in 2007 at one of the local kindergartens. For two years Mr. Opalek went to his nephew’s kindergarten to talk to the children about being a policeman. In 2009, they decided to include other emergency services and organized an event for neighbouring schools.

Mr. Opalek volunteered every single year to come show the children what policemen do, until his untimely death at 34 years of age.

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My Love Affair with Folklore (and a Slovak folklore concert)

Children's Folklore Concert

If I had to guess, I would say that my love of all things related to traditional cultures started in my grandparent’s living room. Our fairly frequent family gatherings would often involve some Scottish airs and folk songs, my grandfather on the fiddle. Sadly, us grandchildren didn’t learn the songs although I recognize most of the melodies (I started learning the violin with my daughters, and one of my goals is to learn those songs).

One of my favourite memories is of listening and dancing to some jig or reel after a day of haying in the summer. At that time haying was a family affair, involving many hands, lots of food, major itch caused by sweat mixing with hay seed, and rides in the back of a pick up on swaying piles of hay bales. Hay used to be made into square bales, which are actually rectangular, and they were leaned against each other like a pyramid so that if it rained the water would run off instead of soaking into the dry hay, like this. We still did it by hand, lifting and carrying each bale.

Anyway, we were relaxing after a day of hard work by playing music, when an evening thunderstorm started and everybody dashed out in the rain to stook the bales in the field behind the house. My sister and I went out under an umbrella and tried to lift the bales but we were still too little to lift them. Afterwards we sat on my grandmother’s couch, counting the time between thunder. One Mississippi, two Mississippi…

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A Slovak Goulash Cook-off

A Slovak Goulash Cook-off

The air was thick with the smell of cooking stew, the buzz of a crowd’s conversations, and a tinge of wood smoke, as contending teams vied for the coveted ‘best goulash’ award.

The other weekend we attended a goulash cook-off in our village. Lined around the brick laid yard were cauldrons of various sizes and types, all containing variations on goulash. Even though the basic idea of goulash is the same, each competitor had his own style or twist on goulash.

Goulash is of Hungarian origin but, like many dishes of Slovakia’s southern neighbour, is immensely popular in Slovakia. Caramelized onions, meat, paprika, tomatoes, peppers, and marjoram are the crucial ingredients, with anything else being optional.  Read More

Hiking in Slovakia: Cierna Skala

 

Cierna Skala Hike, Slovakia

Before Easter I joined with a friend and the wordsmith Julie for a first hike of the season, from Smolenice to Cierna Skala (chi-air-na), a 20km hike through oak and beech forest just starting to show signs of spring.

I was, to be honest, pretty excited at the prospect of a hike at a pace faster than toddler speed. Slow is wonderful for choosing exactly the right rock and examining each little ladybug, but not conducive to walking long distances.  Read More

Rice and Offal Sausages: Slovak Jaterničky

Slovak Jaternicky rice and offal sausages

Next of the products made from a traditional Slovak pig butchering is jaterničky (ya-ter-nich-ky), sausages stuffed with rice, offal, and various herbs. The idea of eating offal is hard for many to digest but with these sausages, I promise you would never know you were eating any untoward parts of a pig.

Seriously, if you have trouble with the thought of the taste of organs, this is the recipe to try (well, besides my amazing beef liver pate, that doesn’t taste strong at all).

If you’ve butchered an animal but not known what to do with the organs, especially the lungs, honestly try this. I do not like lung, I tried it once and was not impressed; in jaternicky, any offal taste is not even detected.  Read More

Winter Hike up McKirdy Mountain, Valemount, Canada

McKirdy Mt. Valemount BC Canada

I wasn’t expecting to get to Canada this year, but in February I made a quick unplanned visit to be together with my extended family. Given that it takes two days to travel one way from Slovakia to the middle of nowhere Canada, I didn’t have much time but was still hoping to get above treeline.

My mom and I did make it up, and I couldn’t have asked for a better companion. We frequently paused along the trail as we got into conversation, solving all the problems of the world.

We went up McKirdy Mountain, and while I have showed pictures and shared memories of my favourite place in the the world before, it was in the summer.

We hadn’t planned on stopping at Hermit Thrush Cabin, but when one of the lenses in my glasses fell out, we traipsed over to tape them back together. That red Tuck Tape has some seriously sticky qualities, and is oh-so-sexy for repairing glasses.  Read More

How to Cook Brains: Slovak Mozgy

How to Eat Brains Slovak Mozgy

When at a Slovak zabijačka (za-bee-yach-ka), a family pig slaughtering, the first food to be cooked is lunch. Without fail, my mother in law makes mozgy, a dish containing the brains and spinal cord.

When planning to blog about zabijačka, I wanted to post exact recipes. This, however, was not possible due to a number of factors, like helping out and taking care of children, but most of all because nobody has any idea of how much of an ingredient they use. If I’m lucky, amounts are given in handfuls, sprinkles, and pours.

“Mami, how much onion did you put in?” I ask.

“Oh, I don’t know, until it looks good. However much the butcher says.” my mother in law answers.  Read More

Bone Broth Slovak Sunday Soup

 

Bone Broth Slovak Sunday Soup

This soup makes an appearance every Sunday at my mother in law’s, and now at my house. The clear broth is made with bones, but there is a secret to making sure that the broth stays clear and not cloudy! We call it Sunday soup, although in Slovak it doesn’t really have a name, just ‘soup.’ The broth warms the stomach, aids digestion for the meal to follow, and provides a host of nutrients. It also appears as the first course at weddings and any celebratory occasion when people eat together.   Read More

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