From Prague to Michigan

Discussion in 'Introductions' started by Dannae, Jan 24, 2008.

  1. stepan

    stepan Well-Known Member

    Dannae, I have lived in the US since 1952 and, although I have great love for my homeland and I consider myself 100% Czech, I am an American through and through. I call myself an American Czech since this country made me what I am today. True, we have our problems with politics, the economy, race relations, etc, but what country doesn't. At least here we are open about it and even with our faults, I believe we are, well not better, but more adapted to things.

    I do so very much want to visit my homeland and see where I was born, visit relatives that I do not know and who do not know I exist, visit Praha, eat real Czech food again (no real Czech restaurants in the DC area), although I do cook some Czech dishes that my mother use to make.

    On the lighter side - how long have you been in the US? Have you prepared all the wonderful Czech dishes for your family? I try to make certain things that I know the family will eat. I often cook cabbage - bith red and white, make goulash and goulash soup, segedyn goulash, chicken paprika, rysky, svichkova, knedlyky - bread and potato (although not too often since they are time consuming and my family is not into them), apple strudel and cookies at Christmas (vanilkove rohlicky especially). I have started writing a cook book of my mother's recipes .. calling it "From Jirina's Kitchen" (subtitled "From Georgia's Kitchen". Progress is slow, but hopefully in the next few years, I will complete it. My approach is not just the cooking, but the serving and ambiance that goes with the Czech Cuisine.
  2. dzurisova

    dzurisova Well-Known Member

    Not only women, when my husband and I first got together, he commented on the way I eat and he had lived in the states for 10 years already. I guess he could ignore it with others but not the woman he was dating.

    Once, while in Prague, we went to a very nice restaurant. I don't like soggy food so when I eat svičkova or gulaš, I order my dumplings on the side. I also pick up the dry dumpling with my hand like one would a piece of bread and dip it into the sauce and take a bite. We don't really have bread dumplings here so it looks like bread to us. When I serve those dishes to Americans, they do the same thing. At this restaurant, my husband was quick to inform me that Czech people would think I'm disgusting if I didn't eat my dumplings with a fork & knife. (He knew that I wouldn't want people to think that about me). So needless to say, I cut my dumplings with a fork and knife (the American way though of course) and dipped them into the sauce. However, the waiter still gave a strange look when I ordered them on the side. My husband said something to him in czech and to this day, I'm not sure what it was. Probably something like "Please forgive my crazy, spoiled wife, she's American” Then the waiter probably said, "Oh that explains everything." :twisted:
  3. Dannae

    Dannae Well-Known Member


    I realize that you have lived over here much longer than I did. Just by saying you were married to your wife for 30 years gave me a hint :wink:.
    But yes, of course, I cook Czech kitchen very often. As a matter of fact I learned how to cook Czech kitchen in the US (funny, right?).

    Before I came over here I did not know how to cook for a simple reason: I used to have 2-3 different jobs at the same time, I had to support my older son and my seriously ill father (I was a single mom). My daddy was very ill but the only thing he somewhat managed was cooking (he was an excellent chef). So after he died I was stuck :oops:.

    In the US I started to learn how to cook and nowadays everybody from my community is convincing me I should open my own Czech restaurant because - as they say - they love my cooking. Svickova with dumplings, goulash, stuffed peppers, pork-dumplings-cabbage, segedin goulash, chicken or pork fingers (= rizky), chicken on paprika with creamy gravy, European Stroganoff with orange rice, I can make Pelmene or Borsc (Russian), Empanadas (Argentinean); for parties I make "chlebicky" or "jednohubky" (very popular) and for Christmas I bake at least 10 different kinds of cookies. If you want, I do not have a problem exchanging or sharing some recipes here (for Christmas etc.). Only one minor thing - I cannot deal with US weight units so everything I have is in metrics (if this is OK). But I have both - English or Czech versions. :p

    Yes, it took me some time to find "hruba mouka" (=Wondra) for dumplings, I have ti improvise when I make "chlebicky" or the "normal" bread or "rohliky" but I think the outcome is pretty close to original just because I still remember my home country taste.
  4. gementricxs

    gementricxs Well-Known Member

    Yes, that has happened to me few times when I was in a restaurant with Americans. And as you said, it does look disgusting.

    Hopefully people who are planning on going to CZ will read these posts and when they get here they will eat "normally".
  5. Dannae

    Dannae Well-Known Member

    Gem, please, what does "eat normally" mean?

    I already said: Indian people eat with their hands, Chinese with chop sticks. I know that the US way of eating may seem to be a bit disgusting to Europeans but also Europeans should be more tolerant; don't you think? It is a common fact that Europeans put down the US way of eating but who can be the real judge here?

    To my belief: if an American comes to a regular Czech restaurant in Czech republic, it should not matter that much. But if he comes to a reception (great event, wedding etc., he should "behave in the local way"). But this predicament applies visa versa, sorry. On the American wedding I will suppress myself and I will try to eat their way just because I do not want to offend anybody (even thought switching the fork gives me a goose bulbs).
  6. gementricxs

    gementricxs Well-Known Member

    Everything is relative.
    I meant the "normal" European way, that is normal for me.
    For you, American way of eating would be "normal".
    The same applies to Indian, Chinese and other nations.

    I did not mean my comment in an offending way, sorry if it sounded like that. :oops:

    I don't think it's really a question of being and not being tolerant.
    It's more about seeing something for the first time.

    First time I saw someone taking knedlik to their hand or just cutting knedlik with fork, I thought it's really disgusting, especially to do it in a restaurant.
    When I saw it for the third time it seemed kind of normal to me, I wasn't astonished by seeing that. It's just the way they are used to eat.

    You do get the weird looks if you eat like that with Czech, but that's simply because they're not used to seeing that.

    You can't really compare it to Chinese, you have plenty of Chinese restaurant here in the Czech Republic, you can see people eating Chinese food with chop stick on the TV a lot. It became normal to us. You just don't think it's weird when you see someone eating with chopstick.
  7. scrimshaw

    scrimshaw Well-Known Member

    Maybe disgusting. hrušný is too strong an adjective.
  8. Dannae

    Dannae Well-Known Member

    Gem, great.

    I fully agree with you - this is all about communication. When Czech people know that there are cultural differences, they will accept them. The same applies to Chinese, African, Arabic ... all different people.

    But I believe this forum is to educate people a bit - not to offend anybody. Because awareness brings more tolerance and this is the major outcome from our discussion here, I believe.

    Sorry if I misunderstood you in the very first time here ...
  9. stepan

    stepan Well-Known Member

    This weekend I am making Veprova, bramborovy knedliky, a zeli. MMMMMM - Can't wait - have not made with knedliky for a long time.... not since last year. I try to make it once a year. The rest of the year we have it without the knedliky.
  10. dzurisova

    dzurisova Well-Known Member

    Jirka, I wasn't offended at all. I know to you it's abnormal.

    It's funny that Europeans look down on the way Americans eat because my whole family hates to eat with Czechs because they smack their lips and many times chew with their mouths open. I noticed the don't do it in a restaurant but at home, EVERY single Czech I know, chews with his/her mouth open and smacks their lips. The sound disgusts me to the the point that I don't want to eat. I'm consistantly asking my husband to "eat normal" :twisted:

    Don't worry about it. I'm sure most Americans won't notice how you hold your fork & knife. None of my American friends/family have ever commented on how our Czech friends & family hold the fork & knife. None of them have noticed. It's just something we don't pay much attention to. The nurse's job was to pay attention to that stuff with your mother, but most Americans don't notice.
  11. Dannae

    Dannae Well-Known Member

    To dzurisova: my last comment before my bedtime (wow, 11:20 is too late for me already): it surprises me that Czech you are in touch will smack their lips while eating. This is something what is being considered "not proper" in my culture, I swear. You are supposed to eat quietly, with your elbows not touching the table and you are supposed to "behave" - I mean pay attention not to offend anybody around the table.
    Chewing with your mouth open - wow, disgusting. I used to be smacked by my parents every time I did that. I am serious. This is NOT a Czech eating manner.
  12. GlennInFlorida

    GlennInFlorida Well-Known Member

    Well, I would never pick a knedlik up with my hand but I would cut it with a fork. Generally, unless something is so dense that you absolutely have to use a knife, most people I know just use their fork to portion off a bite. The only other time I would use a knife would be if the food was "jumpy", that is to say that if you only use your fork, you take a chance of snapping it clean across the table into someone else's lap. :shock:
  13. dzurisova

    dzurisova Well-Known Member

    Dannae, I believe you. It is evident that they are taught not to do this because in public or at someone else's home, or when we have company, they eat properly without even being reminded to do so. But in my house (husband's home and other Czech’s second home :wink: ) they do it. When I asked my husband about it (more like disgustingly commented about it) he said "when you are at home you aren't suppose to worry about manners and enjoy your food. If I have to keep my mouth closed, I don't really enjoy it." I thought it was a strange statement but I figured it was the culture because it's not only him and his brother; but other Czechs who were reared in different areas & homes (Moravians & Bohemians). Only the Czechs who are really close to us and feel at home in our house do this. Another thing I've noticed is that for the most part, Czechs take larger bites than Americans.

    So now I bet you don't want to arrange your son's marriage with these gross Czech people! :wink: :lol: (jk) There goes our free beer.
  14. Rommie

    Rommie Well-Known Member

    I wonder if "eating with your mouth open" is a Czech eating manner or husbands eating manner ahem :oops:
    I don't do that, it really is disgusting. :roll:
  15. Alexx

    Alexx Well-Known Member

    Good to know about the way of "fork-switching" being normal in the US.

    I really did not know about it before. If I saw someone eat like that I would consider him redneck who doesn't even know how to use knife and fork properly.

    That would be really stupid from me. Anyway thanks for hints how to recognize americans in the restaurant.
  16. GlennInFlorida

    GlennInFlorida Well-Known Member

    Yes, well, a lot of people here would have the same feelings about someone who doesn't switch hands using a fork (either that or they would think them pretentious). Just depends on what you are used to. I try to keep my fork in my left hand when I'm eating in Czech Republic (when in Rome you know...) but sometimes I just can't get to the soft stuff right - it keeps rolling off the back of my fork - imagine it must look quite amusing. :lol:
  17. jen

    jen Well-Known Member

    No, my (Czech) sister in law's MOTHER does it AND's repulsive!! But my husband's family eats normally and properly (and insists upon it with the grandchildren)....
  18. ollie1

    ollie1 Active Member

    dzurisova & dannae,

    Its funny how households thousands of miles apart can sound exactly the same. :lol: :lol: Apart from this " chew with your mouth open and lip smacking " ritual we also have " clear the plate of piping hot food in 60 seconds " ritual, when i asked why this is, i was told that the whole point of enjoying food is to enjoy it when its hot, now this i can understand, but not to the extent of 3rd degree burns to the mouth and the rest of the evening nursing indigestion. :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:
    When we were growing up my mother was very strict on the table manners: eg. no slouching, no elbows on the table, no talking with your mouth full, no feeding the dog scraps under the table and if you slipped up you got what is known here as " thick ear " and unless you were quick enough to duck your head out of range you would feel the hard slap of her hand across the side of your head and ear to the point of seeing stars. :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:, but none the less we all survived without serious brain damage!!!!!!! :lol: :lol:
  19. Alexx

    Alexx Well-Known Member

    Who cares how are we "normal" people eating. But what about "Mess Etiquette"?

    How would dinner of G. W. Bush and her majesty Queen Elizabeth II in White House look like (reductio ad absurdum)?
  20. dzurisova

    dzurisova Well-Known Member

    ollie1, I grew up in the same type of household so perhaps I'm a bit hard on my husband's table manners. However, after 8 years of being with him, he has learned to eat right when I'm eating with him because every time he fails to do so, I give him a disgusted dirty look and he frustratingly sighs "OK".

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