Q: I’m from Texas: Del Rio, San Antonio, Austin, and Hunt. I have lived in Chicago for thirty years now, but I get back to visit from time to time. We have Czech and Polish populations up here—rather large ones—and the
kolaches resemble the Texas kolaches of my youth—a small pastry square, corners folded in, with a swab of a fruit filling. But now I see gas stations in Texas selling enormous pigs in a blanket and advertising them as kolaches. What gives?
Jeffrey Cannon, Chicago
A: The Texanist loves kolaches. If he had things his way, each morning after arising he’d be presented with a kiss on the forehead, a cup of freshly brewed coffee as strong and hot as the handsome buck the Texanist sees staring back at him when he looks in the mirror (if he squints a little), and a cartoonishly large platter of assorted Czech pastries. There’d be apple kolaches, apricot kolaches, blueberry kolaches, cherry kolaches, and strawberry kolaches, as well as kolaches filled with cottage cheese, cream cheese, poppy seeds, prunes, and wild combinations of all of the above.
Have you ever had an apricot–cream cheese–prune kolache? Neither has the Texanist, though his mouth is watering profusely at the idea of it. Anyway, in this make-believe fantasy world the dough of the kolaches would be freshly baked and warm and the popsika, that sweet streusel-like material sprinkled on top of kolaches, would be light and crumbly.
The heaping dish would, of course, also contain all manner of klobasniky, which are kolaches’ meaty cousins. In its purest form, a klobasnek
(the singular form of klobasniky) is just kolache dough wrapped around a sausage, a savory delicacy that is said to have been first created in 1953 by the now defunct Village Bakery in West, the little town about twenty miles north of Waco that is widely recognized as the kolache capital of Texas.
As most everyone is aware, the innovating didn’t stop there. Today we can enjoy not only the simple sausage variety of klobasniky; we can also stuff ourselves with sausage and cheese; jalapeño, sausage, and cheese; sausage and sauerkraut; sausage, sauerkraut, and cheese; and jalapeño, sausage, and sauerkraut klobasniky, among others.
Yet over time the nomenclatural distinction between kolaches and klobasniky has been widely abandoned, which is a never-ending source of rankling among fans of both. And these pitchfork-packing pastry pundits are not unjustified in their ire. After all, there really is no such thing as a “sausage kolache.” Kolaches are sweet. The Texanist’s esteemed colleague Stephen Harrigan wrote a beautiful story for this magazine back in 2012 that explored his own Czech heritage as well as the Czech heritage of the kolache. “A Czech koláč,” he explained, “is not a meat sandwich, it’s a pastry. Therefore, the sausage kolache, like the chicken fajita, is an etymological contradiction and cannot technically be said to exist.” (Technically speaking, the term “fajita” refers to a dish made with skirt steak, though, like “kolache,” it has taken on a more generic connotation.)
Noah Lit, co-owner of the Texanist’s local kolache and craft beer shop, Batch Craft Beer and Kolaches, recently told the Texanist that the issue remains a topic of somewhat heated debate. “Every six months or so, we’ll get a comment on Facebook or Instagram that ranges from surly to full-on irate,” Lit says. “It seems like one out of every ten thousand customers that come in really wants us to know the difference between a kolache and klobasnek, which we do, of course. But ‘klobasnek’ just didn’t fit on our neon sign. Or that’s what I tell them, anyway.”
The Texanist, for his part, is decidedly not one of those one in ten thousand customers who gets inordinately upset by any of these misnomers. And he suggests, Mr. Cannon, that you not sweat it either. After all, as the Bard himself might have put it, a klobasnek by any other name would smell as sweet. Er, savory.
Have a question for the Texanist? He’s always available here. Be sure to tell him where you’re from.
This article originally appeared in the August 2022 issue of Texas Monthly with the headline “The Texanist.” Subscribe today.