"It was a desperation - a last call to live or to die. It didn't matter to me if I died, but I knew if I could find no life there, I could not find life anywhere."
When Daniela asked me to assemble and photograph a charcuterie board to represent her heritage and most cherished memories, I simply couldn't understand - what was so Czech about a charcuterie board? And, gosh, a charcuterie and cheese board could be anything, really - just some meats and cheeses on a platter.
And then I heard Daniela's story. I heard how she arrived at an airport when she was 19 and hugged her family, knowing (but not telling) that she would never see them again. She was not going to return. She was leaving her home without knowing one word of English or even having a relationship with the family she was going to. I heard how this courage led her to answers to spiritual questions she asked since childhood and how she found new family, while eventually seeing her old family again. And then, she explained it:
The charcuterie and cheese board is how they all gather. Together. Across heritages, phases in life, troubled & strained relationships. The gather and they fellowship for hours and, as Daniela says, it is so so sweet. The charcuterie board is not fully Czech. But then again, neither is Daniela. See the Daniela's instructions below the images for creating a Czech-inspired charcuterie board. And definitely - definitely! - listen to the podcast episode linked below.
Listen to Daniela's Story Now
Follow The Storied Recipe in Your Favorite Player
1. First of all, Rye Bread is a must...lol. (Becky here: You can try the chleba recipe that Daniela gave me - and see images of her mother's handwritten recipe book!)
2. The next important item on the board is a very special ham. In the US there are all different hams, but none of them really compare to what we called Šunka — it is the Westphalian Ham and I am not sure where you can purchase it. Not in regular grocery stores, that is for sure. It is important that you ask them to slice it PAPER THIN! Here is some info on it: https://www.cooksinfo.com/westphalian-ham
IF you cannot find the Westphalian Ham then Prosciutto is the next closest thing to it. Also, 2 or 3 different kinds of hard Italian cured meats...sliced.
3. And of course you will need a chunk of some hard cheese. Usually Swiss Cheese and then some Goudas. The only place I was able to find a Gouda with Carraway seeds in it (very popular) was in Weagmans. Or any Gouda. We usually do not eat or serve orange type of cheeses. Of course you can make a baked Brie also, but don't need to.... (Becky here: Oh, but I did! Here's a recipe I made - Baked Brie with Roasted Grapes and a Rosemary Balsamic Vinegar Reduction)
4. We use real butter on our bread, and jams such as Apricot or Orange Marmalade. You could also add some dipping Olive oil (even though we usually don't).
5. Grapes go well with all of these (they might add some color to the photos) and either red wine or of course beer....lol...Czechs are huge on their beer....and of course if you want to stay Czech then it is Pilsner.
6. And last but not least. Oh my — Chlebíčky — so this is like really really big in Czech Republic. It is so big and popular that it is served on New Years Eve. So many versions and so yummy. This is a very traditional way of preparing them and dressing them up: http://www.czechcookbook.com/fancy-sandwiches-chlebicky/ but first you have to make the spread that goes on first: http://www.czechcookbook.com/czech-spread-vlassky-salat/
Thanks for the tips, Daniela!