Czech Cultural Center Houston selling new family cookbook

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The Czech Cultural Center Houston has begun selling a new Czech family cookbook titled "Cooking with the Klimas", and if you were looking for inspiration in the kitchen this dual language book might be what you've been looking for. Written by a retired Czech-American physician with help from her husband and daughter, it was more than twenty years in the making. The result is a 500 page "tome" chock full of home recipes.

Dr Marcella Klima is a retired Czech Texan physician who lives in Houston, but never lost touch with her home roots. For more than twenty years she gathered special home recipes including traditional much-loved dishes, like dumplings and wiener schnitzel, after she, her husband, and their five-year-old daughter left Czechoslovakia in 1968. Only recently, the Klimas published all the recipes in a single book. I spoke with Marcella Klima on the line to her home in Texas, and she described how she got the idea when her daughter was little: she wanted special family recipes to always stay with her.

"I started long, long ago, I would say twenty-five or thirty years ago, just to collect recipes for my daughter. Then, when she grew up a bit, and since my husband too of course, is also interested in cooking, they persuaded me to make a cookbook. As a pathologist I only got to work on it about once a year, but when I retired I had more time and began gathering all my notes."

Gathering her notes and eventually writing the cookbook, meant dividing the recipes along traditional lines: "Cooking with the Klimas" lists traditional categories like entrees, soups, main courses, and desserts. But, Mrs Klima told me she and her family decided to include anecdotes together with particular dishes. She told me a very funny story about escargots she used to make back in Czechoslovakia. Because those were next to impossible to get in the 1960s in Czechoslovakia, Mrs Klima learned to mask pieces of kidneys as snails, and most guests were none the wiser. After the Klimas came to America, they were finally able to try the real thing:

"Suddenly, there were snails available so I said this year you will have the real original! So I made the snails. And everybody around the table told me 'Next time make the kidneys again' because they did not have the pungent taste!"

Since the book is called "Cooking with the Klimas" I also asked Mrs Klima if she and her husband actually cook together. Her reply? When in the kitchen they had learned to stay out of each others' way.

"Over the years we started to specialise, naturally, in certain dishes. My husband is a very good baker. Especially, fancy cakes, that's his job, and of course other things like goulash, he thinks that nobody makes a better goulash than him. He likes to brag that his dumplings are the best!"

Dumplings, meatloaf, beef and cabbages, and much more: you can most certainly find everything you've ever wanted to try in Czech cuisine in Mrs Klima's book. If you want to learn more you can contact the Czech Cultural Center Houston at their website www.czechcenter.org/