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8 Delicious Facts About Kolaches

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If you’ve lived in Texas (or are lucky enough to have a grandmother from Moravia) you may be familiar with kolaches, the Czech pastry made of yeasted dough and traditionally filled with apricot, prune, poppy seed, or sweet cheese. These delicious treats have a European heritage and a very American following deep in the heart of Texas—and lately, from coast to coast. Here are some facts for the kolache novice to nosh on.

1. IT ALL BEGAN WITH A WHEEL, A BALL OF DOUGH, AND A PLUM.

Always a must stop #CzechStop #West #WestTX #kolaches #klobasniks

A photo posted by Tim Fricke (@frickestyle) on

The word kolache (pronounced ko-LAH-chee, and also spelled kolace, kolach, or kolacky) is from the Czech and Slovak word for wheel. Legend has it that long ago, in the Czech Republic (then the Austro-Hungarian Empire), a mother was trying to bake bread, but her daughter Libuše kept pestering her. In an effort to appease her, Maminka (mother) gave the girl a small ball of dough to play with. Libuše happily rolled and flattened her dough, then snuck a plum from the table, slipped it into the dough ball, and put the dough into the oven with Maminka’s bread. When Libuše’s father came home from the fields for a snack, he grabbed Libuše’s creation, bit into it, and was squirted with scalding plum juice. Crazy with pain, he began hopping around in circles. Libuše found it all very funny and cried out, “Tatinek je do kola!” (“Daddy is making a wheel!”). The “kola” inspired the kolache.

2. PRAGUE, NEBRASKA HOLDS THE RECORD FOR WORLD’S LARGEST KOLACHE ...

In 1987, the community of Prague, Nebraska celebrated its centennial by baking a cherry-filled kolache that weighed 2605 pounds and measured 15 feet in diameter.

3. ... AND PRAGUE, OKLAHOMA HOSTS THE LARGEST KOLACHE FESTIVAL IN THE WORLD.

The Kolache Festival in Prague, Oklahoma is held the first Saturday of each May and attracts 30,000 people to a town of 2500. Women in the community begin baking kolaches months in advance; it's estimated that some 50,000 of the pastries are consumed during the festivities.

4. TEXAS IS THE KOLACHE CAPITAL OF THE U.S.

When Czech immigrants arrived in Texas in the mid- to late-19th century, they brought with them their culture—and their beloved pastry. The number of bakeries serving kolaches in Texas abound. While several towns claim to be The Kolache Capital of the state, the area that runs along Interstate 35 from Dallas to Austin boasts some of the most renowned kolache in Texas.

The Czech Stop in the small town of West, Texas is easily one of the most beloved kolache purveyors in the United States. This hot spot, opened in 1983 by former marine Bill Polk, made national news in 2013 when a fertilizer plant explosion rocked the small town of West and customers of the establishment raised over $200,000 for relief. It's open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and ships daily in the winter months.  

5. 7-ELEVEN SERVES KOLACHES (BUT ONLY IN TEXAS).

There are two varieties available: Beef Sausage and Pork and Beef Sausage. These breakfast kolaches are filled with meat and are wrapped up in kolache dough. The meat technically makes them klobasniky, a Czech-by-way-of-Tex iteration that is wildly popular in kolache shops across Texas and beyond. (Regular kolaches only contain fruit.)

6.  THERE ARE ARTISANAL KOLACHES.

If you can’t get to Texas for a kolache, how about Brooklyn? The Brooklyn Kolache Company makes theirs from all natural, often organic, and locally-sourced ingredients. These kolaches have evolved beyond the classic and traditional to include a variety of modern fillings that include Pan de Coco; Chocolate Ganache; Spinach and Feta; and Sausage, Jalapeno, and Cheese. Their signature pastry, an Instagram favorite, is the King Cake. This Louisiana-style bun—made with cinnamon, butter, brown sugar, and sweet cream cheese—is all rolled up in kolache dough and topped with purple, green, and gold candied sugar for Mardi Gras. Republic Kolache and Bayou Bakery in Washington, D.C., take their King Cake one step further by inserting a baby figurine, per New Orleans tradition, into some of their pastry. Symbolically a good luck charm, finding one in your King Cake here entitles you to a free kolache.

7. A LITERARY ICON PAID HOMAGE TO THE KOLACHE.

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Willa Cather learned to make kolache from Annie Pavelka, her Czech neighbor in Nebraska. Pavelka was the inspiration for the eponymous character in My Antonia, a novel that immortalized the Czech immigrant experience on the American frontier. Cather is credited as saying, “If security could ever have a smell, it would be the fragrance of a warm Kolache.”

8. THE TASTY TREAT WAS MENTIONED IN THE AMERICANS.

The FX series gave a nod to kolaches in season 3’s penultimate episode. Are kolaches a clue for the viewer, or merely a subliminal ploy to make us hungry?

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Food
In 1938, The New York Times Thought Cheeseburgers Were a Weird New Fad
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People love to make fun of The New York Times's trend section: Their umpteen pieces on the Millennial craze have been called "hate-reads," and their dissection of cultural norms such as oversharing, defriending people in real life, and chopped salad at lunch as "trends" can be hilarious and infuriatingly obvious.

But while their pieces aren't always exactly timely, they will certainly make for interesting reads in a few decades—just like this throwback piece on a California fad called "cheeseburgers" from 1938.

When "cheeseburger" was first mentioned in the October 1938 article, it was in a long list about the "whimsy" of California eateries. Then, nine years later in May 1947, the Times revisited the fad, writing, "At first, the combination of beef with cheese and tomatoes, which sometimes are used, may seem bizarre." Fortunately, their intrepid reporter could see the bigger picture. "If you reflect a bit, you’ll understand the combination is sound gastronomically."

Now, 70 years later, you can not only ask for gourmet cheeses like brie, goat, or gorgonzola on your burger—or spend upwards of $300 on one—there are multiple burger chains where you can order stacks on stacks on stacks of cheeseburger patties. That weird little West Coast fad has become a multibillion dollar industry, and cheeseburgers are practically our national food (arguably in hot contention with apple pie). Congratulations, America! We did it!

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2017 Ig Nobel Prizes Celebrate Research on How Crocodiles Affect Gambling and Other Odd Studies
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The Ig Nobel Prizes are back, and this year's winning selection of odd scientific research topics is as weird as ever. As The Guardian reports, the 27th annual awards of highly improbable studies "that first make people laugh, then make them think" were handed out on September 14 at a theater at Harvard University. The awards, sponsored by the Annals of Improbable Research, honor research you never would have thought someone would take the time (or the funding) to study, much less would be published.

The 2017 highlights include a study on whether cats can be both a liquid and a solid at the same time and one on whether the presence of a live crocodile can impact the behavior of gamblers. Below, we present the winners from each of the 10 categories, each weirder and more delightful than the last.

PHYSICS

"For using fluid dynamics to probe the question 'Can a Cat Be Both a Solid and a Liquid?'"

Winner: Marc-Antoine Fardin

Study: "On the Rheology of Cats," published in Rheology Bulletin [PDF]

ECONOMICS

"For their experiments to see how contact with a live crocodile affects a person's willingness to gamble."

Winners: Matthew J. Rockloff and Nancy Greer

Study: "Never Smile at a Crocodile: Betting on Electronic Gaming Machines is Intensified by Reptile-Induced Arousal," published in the Journal of Gambling Studies

ANATOMY

"For his medical research study 'Why Do Old Men Have Big Ears?'"

Winner: James A. Heathcote

Study: "Why Do Old Men Have Big Ears?" published in the BMJ

BIOLOGY

"For their discovery of a female penis, and a male vagina, in a cave insect."

Winners: Kazunori Yoshizawa, Rodrigo L. Ferreira, Yoshitaka Kamimura, and Charles Lienhard (who delivered their acceptance speech via video from inside a cave)

Study: "Female Penis, Male Vagina and Their Correlated Evolution in a Cave Insect," published in Current Biology

FLUID DYNAMICS

"For studying the dynamics of liquid-sloshing, to learn what happens when a person walks backwards while carrying a cup of coffee."

Winner: Jiwon Han

Study: "A Study on the Coffee Spilling Phenomena in the Low Impulse Regime," published in Achievements in the Life Sciences

NUTRITION

"For the first scientific report of human blood in the diet of the hairy-legged vampire bat."

Winners: Fernanda Ito, Enrico Bernard, and Rodrigo A. Torres

Study: "What is for Dinner? First Report of Human Blood in the Diet of the Hairy-Legged Vampire Bat Diphylla ecaudata," published in Acta Chiropterologica

MEDICINE

"For using advanced brain-scanning technology to measure the extent to which some people are disgusted by cheese."

Winners: Jean-Pierre Royet, David Meunier, Nicolas Torquet, Anne-Marie Mouly, and Tao Jiang

Study: "The Neural Bases of Disgust for Cheese: An fMRI Study," published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience

COGNITION

"For demonstrating that many identical twins cannot tell themselves apart visually."

Winners: Matteo Martini, Ilaria Bufalari, Maria Antonietta Stazi, and Salvatore Maria Aglioti

Study: "Is That Me or My Twin? Lack of Self-Face Recognition Advantage in Identical Twins," published in PLOS One

OBSTETRICS

"For showing that a developing human fetus responds more strongly to music that is played electromechanically inside the mother's vagina than to music that is played electromechanically on the mother's belly."

Winners: Marisa López-Teijón, Álex García-Faura, Alberto Prats-Galino, and Luis Pallarés Aniorte

Study: "Fetal Facial Expression in Response to Intravaginal Music Emission,” published in Ultrasound

PEACE PRIZE

"For demonstrating that regular playing of a didgeridoo is an effective treatment for obstructive sleep apnoea and snoring."

Winners: Milo A. Puhan, Alex Suarez, Christian Lo Cascio, Alfred Zahn, Markus Heitz, and Otto Braendli

Study: "Didgeridoo Playing as Alternative Treatment for Obstructive Sleep Apnoea Syndrome: Randomised Controlled Trial," published by the BMJ

Congratulations, all.

[h/t The Guardian]

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