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Man Does Not Live With Bread, Alone

December 19, 2010

The boys indulging in dessert

With our family all together for holidays, what I looked forward to most today was sharing breakfast.  So when my husband waltzed into the kitchen and brazenly prepared himself  a huge wad of toast with gobs of peanut butter and jam, I hit the roof.

One big happy Shuster family meal, Christmas, circa 1973 in Leamington. I must be trying to recreate these experiences from childhood, eh?!

“What are you doing?” I asked incredulously as I tried to pry the dripping hunk of blasphemy out of his hands.

“I’m eating,” he said matter-of-factly, holding the hunk of insult high above his head, out of my reach. As if I was blind.

“Well, don’t ruin your appetite” I said sternly, and I proceeded to fry the sausage loudly in front of his face.

He continued to chew and read the  newspaper, pretending (I am sure)  not to notice how busy I was, even though I was directly across from him, my glare  surely boring hot holes through his thick skull.

“How would you like your eggs prepared?” I asked sweetly a few minutes later, smugly pleased that I was generously offering him a  choice.

“I’m not hungry” he stated, as he kept on reading.

At this point, I sort of had a mini meltdown. I demanded that he join us so that we could all be one happy family and enjoy my damn smorgasbord.  I may have sort of implied he might as well be cheating on me with Ms. Jif.

After an exchange of a few choice words he disappeared, leaving me alone with an aborted meal  (the boys were still in bed at 11am, being teenagers, and did not actually wake up for 3 more hours, at which point my husband was hungry again, but all this is beside the point).

My Slovak cousin Daniela and her family in Pazova enjoying a meal

As I sat there alone, absentmindedly eating one cold heart attack inducing stick of meat after another, I wondered why it was so important to me to feed them all, and for them enjoy my meal together.  And why was it apparently not important in the least to my husband?  I glumly sifted through my email,  my best laid plans gone astray.

In my Inbox were emails from two friends (both svelte) who had politely rejected a chain email I had forwarded imploring them to send one lousy recipe  to a single person on a two line list, and then to forward said email to 10 other friends. Their excuse? They didn’t know ten friends who could or would do it.  Really?! I had a hard time choosing who I could not send it to.

Happily sharing a meal (okay, this time, mostly drinks) with cousins in Dolny Kubin earlier this year.

Pondering the emails and the events of the  morning, I vaguely recalled an article published earlier this year about the surprising effects on weight and happiness found in a study of social networks.   I pulled up the article, and suddenly my feelings seemed utterly understandable.  According to the study, we are programmed to seek out others like ourselves, and their behaviors, likes and dislikes mirror our own, and vice versa.

Being Slovak, obviously my urge to prepare food and eat with friends and family was deeply imbedded in my genetic code.  The devil didn’t make me do it (as my husband surely thought); my DNA did.  Anyone who knows Slovaks knows their lives are centered around food, whether growing it, preparing it, eating it and especially talking about it.  To Slovaks, the genetic formula for life is simply: Food + family/friends +(optional, but strongly recommended, alcohol) = love and happiness.

Preparing food for the Slovak Festival last month in my kitchen with Lubos and friends. Lubos runs

To a Slovak, the best things in life may not be free, but they certainly don’t cost much.  A gathering of friends sharing a  spread of  lovingly prepared food and a few bottles of wine and you have the makings for a perfect evening. In hindsight, it might have been better to have married a Slovak instead of a Dutch/German/Brit mix in whom the food gene was recessive. But the groundbreaking social network study had not yet been conducted when I blindly married him in 1988.

With respect to my two thin friends who appear to lack the friendship of good hearty Slovaks, I have decided to lend them mine. I encourage each of you to write a comment below with a simple recipe that apparently they could not receive otherwise. Not only will we share our love for food and friendship and thus expose them to our happiness, we may also fatten them up a bit.

‘Tis the season, after all.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. Stan permalink
    December 19, 2010 1:00 pm

    Long live the Slovak genetic formula for life, the world is a far, far better place for it.

    • Rebecca Bonco permalink
      December 19, 2010 3:55 pm

      I am currently in SK getting stuffed by my in laws and having my fill of vino, varene vino, and slivovica. I asked my MIL to give me one of her recipes but she said she doesn’t have one and just “throws things in”. That, and I think my husband didn’t push her b/c it would create more work for him to translate! So, I give you the zucchini bread recipe that I use:

      3 cups all-purpose flour
      1 teaspoon salt
      1 teaspoon baking soda
      1 teaspoon baking powder
      3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
      3 eggs
      1 cup vegetable oil
      2 1/4 cups white sugar
      3 teaspoons vanilla extract
      2 cups grated zucchini (with the water!)
      Grease and flour two 8 x 4 inch pans. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).
      Sift flour, salt, baking powder, soda, and cinnamon together in a bowl.
      Beat eggs, oil, vanilla, and sugar together in a large bowl. Add sifted ingredients to the creamed mixture, and beat well. Stir in zucchini until well combined. Pour batter into prepared pans.
      Bake for 40 to 60 minutes, or until tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

      • December 21, 2010 1:41 pm

        Hi Rebecca. My Slovak relatives love making Zucchini Cake, and my kids love to eat it.

        What things did your mother in law “throw in” for dinner last night?! Does she like to bake too?

        Cheers, with a glass of slivovica!


      • December 26, 2010 8:39 am

        i think her measurements are “a pinch” here and “a spoonful” there:) of course for the past 2 days we’ve eaten left over christmas dinner- kapustnica, zemackovy salat, vipraze rybi. today for lunch we had salat with any left over veggies from past dinners, duck, and riza. (pls excuse my spelling:) baking…yes…i’ve never seen so many mala kolacki or cookies. she keeps bringing them over (we own a house here in Skalica -west SK, close to the Moravian border- 100 kilometers from Bratislava). my husband is waiting for his loksa but i think Babi is avoiding his requests b/c its so much work. i think the guy who writes “52 weeks in Slovakia” really captures the character of slovakia and slovaks. especially in his post about slovak cooking being different from house to house:)
        Stesne a vesele a stesne novy rok!


  2. The Husband permalink
    December 19, 2010 4:18 pm

    Here is my recipe for PB&J:

    2 pieces of bread, toasted
    1 large spoon
    1 jar Peanut Butter
    1 jar jam

    Using the spoon, dip into the peanut butter and get a large hunk of it
    Eat it
    Dip the spoon in again, eat again if desired
    When ready, spread 1-2 large spoonfuls of peanut butter on each piece of toast so that it drips over the sides and onto the counter and into your hands.
    Using the same spoon, dig into the jam and spread at least 1-2 spoonfuls over the peanut butter.
    To finish, dip the spoon back into the peanut butter jar, and take one last long lick.

    Leave the jars open on the counter beside the open bag of bread. Carefully balance the spoon over the peanut butter jar. Don’t worry, when you come back later, everything will be cleaned up.

    • December 26, 2010 8:43 am

      i love the pbj post. that’s totally what i do and my slovak husband just stares in disgust. although he will later do this, but with nutella!

      • December 28, 2010 9:42 am

        🙂 . I wonder what the Slovak equivalent is. Ask him if he used to each the cheese/fish spread that students ate after a long night of drinking.

  3. Aunt Kay permalink
    December 19, 2010 8:26 pm

    WOW!!! How things have changes Tonya. I can remember when you – oh never mind! Don’t forget that the Heisers lived to est too.

    • December 20, 2010 6:07 pm

      Now, Aunt Kay, you are giving away family secrets! Yes, I admit that I was addicted to peanut butter myself for years, but hey, I was a kid!! I outgrew it by my teens, and have been eating a much better diet ever since.

      I’m afraid I don’t have any Heiser family recipes. What I remember most is the day Grandma Plato took to the chicken farm and had me pick out dinner. Then she had it’s head cut off, and she taught me how to de-flock and gut it.

      Here’s my story on that:

  4. Jacky permalink
    December 20, 2010 5:58 pm

    This should help fatten them up:

    Vanilla Crack Cookies

    1 sleeve Saltine crackers
    2 sticks salted butter
    1 c. white granulated sugar
    2 tsp. vanilla extract
    1/2 c. salted nut pieces

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
    Line cookie sheet or jelly roll pan w/ heavy foil and turn up edges.
    Spray with non-stick spray.
    Cover pan with a single layer of crackers, salt side up. Break to make fit.

    Combine butter, sugar, and vanilla in a sauce pan. Bring to a full boil over med-high heat on stove. Stir constantly. Boil for 5 minutes while stirring (can decrease heat, but keep the boil.) Pour mixture over soda crackers as evenly as you can (criss-cross as best as you can, will spread while baking.) Sprinkle salted nuts on top.

    Bake at 350 for 10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. When completely cool, peel off foil and break into pieces.

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