Since Christmas is a time of nostalgia, I thought I’d bring ’round a memory or two from my childhood.
Even though Czechoslovakia isn’t a country anymore, I love to announce that I’m half-Czechoslovakian. I don’t feel like many Americans can claim this. My maternal grandfather’s family immigrated from Slovakia, and my grandmother’s from the Czech Republic. My mom grew up in a Czechoslovakian-immigrant town, and while that sounds exotic and interesting, a lot of the traditions (and original founders) had passed away by the time I came around.
My grandfather could speak Czech, but decided not to pass the skill along to my mother. We do have pictures—and my mother has memories—of community beseda dances in the traditional costumes. I’ve also heard stories of the older women of the community coming together to stretch strudel dough until it was nearly transparent, bickering as they went about who tore the dough.
My grandmother and a friend of hers would make chicken paprikash, which is essentially chicken and dumplings. This recipe, though, is very particular, and doesn’t much resemble Cracker Barrel’s delicious, but admittedly slimy-textured, version. The “dumplings” were more like sponges? But in a good way? They sopped up the sauce perfectly.
As an American three generations removed from my European roots, I sometimes find myself longing for a more deeply rooted heritage. Other than the 4th of July, which is just a hodgepodge of red, white, and blue and grills hot in the backyard, we Americans don’t take a lot of pride in our country. Obviously, this isn’t entirely true, but I see it becoming exceedingly more common the older our country grows.
I guess the beauty and struggle of our melting pot rests here. We don’t have neighbors from “the Old Country,” and our traditions follow a spectrum of dedication, depending on the individual. We get to make our own heritage, especially depending on where we send down our roots. And, hence, the pros and cons. But, especially, the immense blessings.
To be honest, this post was heading in a different direction that my particular Czech heritage. I was going to ramble on about the pecan trees in my grandparents’ backyard and how pecans have a very strong sensory memory for me. All of my relatives’ freezers were packed with frozen, shelled pecans, which have since run out, as my grandparents had to move about 20 years ago to make way for a toll-road service road. However, the memory continues on.
Do you have any special connections to other countries? My rather distant connection to the Czech Republic has me studying European maps each time I get to cross the Atlantic, looking for a chance to visit Prague. Since it’s not on others’ radar, I haven’t gotten the chance to visit just yet. But I know it’s beautiful, and I’m hoping everyone will look like me.