My Slovak Heritage
To put it simply (and in the most lovingly way possible), I am an American mutt. Don’t get me wrong–I pride myself in being third generation American on my dad’s side and 1/umpteenth percentage Navajo on my mother’s side. Family tradition has always intrigued me, but now that I am a mother, I am more interested in keeping family traditions alive for my son’s sake. I want him to know about his family history. I want to create new traditions with my family while preserving the traditions my grandparents hold dear.
My Slovak heritage stems from my paternal grandpa. His parents came from Slovakia (NOT Czech–visions of him saying this with a stern finger wag come to mind). They opened a restaurant/tavern in Buffalo, New York where they raised their family upstairs while running the business downstairs. I am sure this is where my love of cooking comes from.
Slovak Bobalky: What is it?
Basically, bobalky is a bread ball covered in honey and poppy seeds. There are variations to the recipe, but the only one I’ve tried is the honey/poppy seed version. It is sticky, sweet, and borderline addictive. Seriously. You can pop these things in your mouth like candy. Now that I think of it, they could be a relative to the doughnut hole. Traditionally the bobalky is prepared and served with the Christmas Eve dinner.
Christmas Eve is a pretty big deal for my family. The main entry always includes fish because Christmas Eve is a day of abstinence from meat. My grandpa told me that his mom’s fish fry was well known in the area where they lived, and patrons would fill the restaurant on Friday evenings. She used a tempura type batter (no breadcrumbs) and fried it in oil. My great-grandmother prepared this same fish for Christmas Eve. I attempted this once and failed semi-miserably. Side note: One day I will master this recipe and prepare it for my family on Christmas Eve.
Traditional Bobalky Recipe
- Plain white bread dough (your preference)
- 1/2 cup ground poppy seeds
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1 cup boiling water
- Roll the dough into a small cylinder an cut into 3/4″ pieces. Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes or until golden in color. Cool completely.
- Place bread rolls in a colander. Pour boiling water evenly over the bread rolls–this will soften them a bit. Put newly softened rolls in a bowl.
- In a saucepan over low heat, warm honey and ground poppy seeds. Pour over softened rolls and toss.
What I love most about this recipe is the fact that it is emblematic of my family’s heritage. Bobalky, along with most Slovak recipes, is very simple. It serves as a reminder of my family’s humble and hardworking beginnings–something I hope to carry onward.