More family-recipe loot I lugged back from Prague:

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The large-format magazines on the bottom only run to about twenty pages, and are one-off publications.

Left:

Austrian Specialties: My Austrian uncle-in-law gave this tiny book of recipes. The real writer in the family, (with a library crammed full of books in German, Czech, and English, and hundreds of small notebooks), his contribution to my mom’s cookbook included the instructions (for spaghetti sauce), “RRRRMMMMM in a food processor.” He died of liver cancer in 2006.

Guláš: Hundreds of goulash recipes, published in 1985. Also from my mother-in-law’s collection. The back cover sports a giant ad for Znojmia vinegar–because good goulash improves with a healthy shot of vinegar. (The Znojmia brand is still around and is owned by the Czech food group Hamé, whose page notes that the first records of Znojmo pickling dates to the second half of the 16th century.)

Under Guláš lies Sváteční pečivo, a brief cookbook of special-occasion pastries. The pastries themselves are beautifully wound and braided cookies and cakes, but the real art is Ladislav Junger’s pointillist illustrations that evoke the 19th century. (My favorite is the one of a frowning cook wrestling with a ball of dough that engulfs her hand.)

Stolování: When I ask my husband about this, the first thing he says is, “You mean stolováníííííííííííííííííí?” (I’m still a long way from mastering accent marks, and forgot to drag out the last syllable.) “It’s the culture of eating.” After a ten-minute debate, we determine, via slovnik.cz, that this is actually “dining,” not “ettiquette.” Published in 1983 by the General Committee of the MONA Czech Women’s Union. Jakub declares he will now call me “Comrade Erin.”

What may (or may not) be surprising is that–from 1983–Stolování betrays none of the frugality you might expect of a country under Communist grip. Page after page, tables are spread with abundant settings: lace, damask, silver, crystal, heaps of flowers and food, and the characteristic blue-and-white Czech porcelain pattern, cibulák. In better light, I’ll post photos of the inside.

Right:

Kouzlo lidové tradice, “The Magic of Folk Traditions.” In case it’s hard to see, those are frosted cookies that spell out the title, on the cover. The preface casts a fairly wide net for the book: “Celebrations to welcome the spring, Easter pomlázkas, harvest festivals, Masopust (Shrove Tuesday) banquets, Christmas, weddings, funerals, christenings…” From gingerbread-making to egg decorating, to poppy-covered bread-dough ornaments, this is a catalogue of Czech arts and crafts. A 1980 reprint of the 1979 publication, brought to you by the same group that did Stolování.

Vaříme pro slavnostní příležitosti, “Cooking for Special Occasions.” A mix of Czech and continental recipes for appetizers, soups, salads, main dishes, and desserts. The first page lists six menus you could concoct. The Wedding Menu: Ham Rolls Stuffed with Horseradish Cream; Beef Soup with Meat Dumplings; Stuffed Chicken Breast with Potatoes and Sauce; Sliced Sirloin with Mixed Mushrooms and Rice; Green Salad; Wedding Cake; Coffee; Little Cakes; Fruit.

So. There’s a lot of material to work with. I’m beginning to shape the series, which will look at figures from both sides of the family. (Back in Colorado, my parents have promised that they’re photographing recipes from the Irish-American and Italian sides. My mom told me over the weekend that one recipe is missing that critical column on the left–you know, where the ingredient quantities go.

“But the title of the recipe is The Famous Italian Christmas Bread, so…” We finished the sentence at the same time. “Panettone, of course!”

“Yes,” my mom cautioned, “but it’s for two loaves.” Both my parents read mysteries voraciously, so it stood to reason that my mom was already on the hunt for a two-loaf panettone recipe (with the numbers column intact). That recipe is from my mom’s grandmother.

It shouldn’t be surprising: the ghost in the pantry, a composite of all these faces, and more, is both young and old.

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