Monday, April 5, 2010


The Christmas and Easter seasons always usher in the annual lekvar binge. Lekvar is a fruit jam used in yummy Slovak pastries. Though it can refer to a wide variety of fruits, in my family lekvar is synonymous with a prune-plum filling. This is perhaps the only significant Slovak cultural tradition that has been bequeathed to me, so I take it very seriously.

I learned the art of making lekvar cakes from watching my mother tenderly craft them for our family as a child. I experimented with the art and over time eventually mastered it myself. It's a great mother-son bonding moment. Anyway, it was my habit each Christmas and Easter throughout college and many years afterwards to make lekvar cakes for the special people in my life. I would visit my closest friends in their dorms and my favorite professors at their homes and deliver these scrumptious delights much to their amazement and the contentment of their bellies. One of my first dates with Jennifer at Sewanee was making lekvar cakes in Tuckaway’s kitchen. So, lekvar has a very special place in my heart as you might imagine.

Solo still makes the lekvar filling, but it is impossible to find in stores anymore. Aaargggh! Consequently, I haven’t made any lekvar in recent years and rely on my mother to make it from scratch. Believe it or not, Amazon actually sells lekvar! I may just bite the bullet and buy a 12-can pack off of Amazon. It is worth the exorbitant cost not so much because of the savory taste, though that is certainly a worthy incentive and sufficient reason to do so, but because I miss the ritualistic practice of kneading the butter and cream cheese and flour. I really enjoyed coating the counter with powdered sugar and rolling out the dough to a very thin and fine film and then delicately speading the lekvar filling over the dough with the back of the spoon. All throughout the process I’m devouring the lekvar, mind you! It requires meticulous attention to detail to slowly fold the pastry over into a neat rectangle and then another carefully folded rectangle. The slightest mistake-- such as rolling the dough too thinly, or puncturing the dough with the spoon, or folding the rectangles erratically-- and the pastry will burst in the oven as it cooks and the lekvar will spill all over the pan in a frustrating mess.

The smell of all that butter and cream cheese and flour and lekvar wafting through the house was one of my all-time favorite smells, second perhaps only to incense in Mass. All in all, the sweet ambrosia and taste of a flaky lekvar pastry reminds me of all things I treasure most in life: friendship, family, tradition, work-ethic, faith, hope, and love.

1 comment:

  1. There is no longer any shame in ordering special ingredients over the internet. I sure do know that it's easier than searching every square inch of a Central Market or Whole Foods. I say go for it!