The hearty Czech meal was a delicious remedy to my jet lag and terrible cold.
My first experience with Czech cuisine was actually before I came to Prague. Growing up, my mom cooked sauerkraut and dumplings with sausages in a giant 1960’s crock-pot. Those nights were special occasions. It was one of my favorites as a kid, digging into the contrasting textures of doughy dumplings and acidic sauerkraut. My mom is only a quarter Czech, but my indecision about where to travel this Fall was solved when I decided to trace my heritage, visiting the countries my mother’s side of the family originated. My grandfather is Czech and German, and my grandmother is Welsh and Irish. I must say I feel blessed to carry the blood of four of the top ten highest beer-consuming countries in the world. I am also not surprised given my joy and delight in tasting and imbibing different ales and lagers. Let’s just say things worked out anyway, and that is how I ended up in Prague.
Upon arriving in at the Czech Inn, my backpacker’s hostel, I was lucky enough to quickly meet some Australians who had been traveling for months. Hungry for some Bohemian eats, we journeyed down the street to a restaurant called Restaurace u Veverky for some authentic Czech cuisine, recommended by the front desk. We sat down in the dimly lit restaurant, ordered a customary “pivo” (beer), and scanned the menu. I settled on the garlic soup for my cold, and a meal of pork shoulder, dumplings, and sauerkraut, a very traditional Czech meal.
The garlic soup was hearty with huge cloves of garlic, and seasoned hard bread croutons. It brought warmth back into my body after wandering through the rain all afternoon looking for the hostel. Mind you, wandering is not so soul-searching and significant when you’re carrying a 40-pound backpack.
Our waitress quickly brought our beers in a round thick glass, ice cold with an inch of foam sitting proudly on top. The beer was a traditional pilsner, crisp with a bit of hops-y bitterness. My meal came moments later, and my Bohemian blood simmered at the sight of it. The pork was sliced and doused in warm brown gravy, snuggled next to a heaping mound of hot sauerkraut. This sauerkraut was quite different from my moms, a fairly vinegary and acidic variety served cold. Instead, this traditional version was warm with a more robust and savory finish. The texture of the cabbage was soft without being overcooked or mushy, and the flavor was deliciously sweet and sour at the same time. The bread dumplings were pillowy and dark where they soaked up the gravy.
We finished our meals in minutes, taking breaths only to murmur our satisfaction and take gulps of beer. The hearty Czech meal was a delicious remedy to my jet lag and terrible cold, and gave me the opportunity to get to know my new Aussie friends. We emerged from the restaurant to find it still raining, so with a jump off the perch we ran down the cobblestone road back to the Czech Inn. It felt amazing to stretch my legs after the long plane ride and let the rain hit my cheeks as my boots pounded the stone street. Full and excited, I peeked up at the buildings and old lampposts on the way home and felt a jolt of excitement for the following day, for more beers to taste and dishes to try in the old city.