Heritage cooking
// Leanne Kriz

Canada is an intriguing mix of diverse individuals with varying backgrounds and stories. Unfortunately, many people have lost touch with their history and what goes along with it; culture, traditions, family ties, tales, knowledge, and so much more. Dietary choices play a huge role in the way people live their lives and, in turn, their culture and traditions. So what better way to get in touch with your ancestors than a delicious haggis, some rice dumplings, baklava, tortillas or whatever other recipes you can scrounge up from your family archives?

If you are already well in-touch with your culture, why not check out some other unfamiliar foods and surprise your taste buds with some traditional meals from around the world? In fact, if you need a great date or dinner party idea, choose a particular style of cooking, and cook it for a crowd or your current crush. Hold a Norwegian night; Lebanese, Spanish, Korean, Ethiopian, etc. Go all-out and pick a traditional board game or movie from the same area! My good friend’s mother held a Lebanese-themed night and it was probably one of the most memorable dinner parties I’ve ever attended. Not only was the food fantastic, the night culminated in her mom performing a belly dance for all of us.

Whatever your inspiration is, whether it’s your desire to get to know a bit about your roots or a genuine curiosity of other cultures, it is important to find an authentic recipe. I recommend your first step be to contact your more distant relatives and dig through Mom and Dad’s old recipes. Hard copy old recipe books are great, and, of course, you can use the Internet too.

My recent obsession has been to harass my grandmother with e-mails in order to obtain all her best Czech recipes. I’ve eaten many of them before, but I think it is important to learn to make them on my own so I can maintain the traditions and knowledge on how to create such mouth-watering meals.

Today, I am going to provide you with a recipe for schnitzel and potato salad, which is a classic meal in my household. Shockingly, they are both incredibly easy to make. When I feel like getting in touch with my ancestral roots, I whip up a batch of salad, fry up some schnitzels, crack open a good Czech beer and transport myself to my grandma’s apartment in Czech Republic.

Pay tribute to those before you with a beautiful meal and share the experience with your friends and family.

Kriz Family Potato Salad

8 large russet potatoes
6 hard-boiled eggs
2 cups pickles, finely chopped
1-2 cups ham, chopped into cubes
1 large (or two small) white onions, finely minced
1 package frozen peas (about 350g)
1- 1 1/2 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons yellow mustard
Juice of one large lemon
Salt and pepper to taste

1. The best way to go about making potato salad is to prep all your ingredients. Start by peeling your russet potatoes and cut them into quarters (so they cook faster) and boil until soft (about 15-20 minutes, depending on the size).

2. While your potatoes are cooking, start boiling your eggs (you can use more than six if you like eggs!). Put your eggs in a pot of water. Once the water starts boiling, turn it down to a low boil and start timing – you should let them cook for about ten minutes. After the eggs are done, put them in cold water to cool before peeling.

3. While your eggs and potatoes are cooking, you can start chopping up the rest of your ingredients. Keep all the ingredients in separate bowls once you prep them. Chop your pickles into small pieces. Your ham can be cut into cubes that are about 1/2 cm wide. Take the most care with mincing the white onion; it is easy to ruin your potato salad by cutting the onion in pieces that are too chunky. Finally, juice your lemon, measure out your mayonnaise and mustard, and have your salt and pepper on hand.

4. At this point your potatoes and eggs are hopefully cooked and cool enough to cut. Peel your eggs and chop them into small pieces. Take the potatoes and cut them into cubes that are about 1 cm thick. You want to keep the pieces relatively small.

5. Grab a large bowl and place the ingredients down in layers (this is because it is hard to mix if you put it all in at once and your potato salad may end up over-mixed and mushy). To do this, place a layer of potato down, then a layer of each of the ingredients including mayo and mustard. Mix up this first layer. Continue in this manner until you have done about three or four layers. Do one final mix.

6. You can eat the salad right away, but my family always makes it a day before so that there is time for all the flavours to combine. If you are leaving it to rest, smooth out the top of the salad and put plastic wrap over the top.

7. Serve with a squeeze of lemon!


Chicken breast or pork cutlet (the thinner the better)
1 cup flour
3 large eggs
1 cup breadcrumbs
Vegetable oil

1. Pound chicken or pork until thin. To do this, use a meat mallet, or tenderizer. You can also place the meat on a cutting board with a piece of saran wrap on top, and just hit it with something heavy, like the bottom of a frying pan. You want to thin the meat till it is about 1 cm thick.

2. The next step is breading the meat. To do this, set up three separate stations side by side – flouring, egging, and breading. For flouring, put about one cup of flour on the plate. The next station is your egg station – put 3 large eggs in a bowl that is shallow and flat so you can fit your whole piece of meat in it, and whip well, to the point where the eggs are no longer stringy. The third station is bread crumbs – do it the same as flour.

3. Now place your flattened meat into the flour mixture and coat thoroughly. Then, place your floured meat into your egg mixture. Sometimes you need to swish the meat around a bit or let it sit so the egg has a chance the stick to it. Lastly, coat the meat in breadcrumbs. Don’t be skimpy! Make sure the whole piece is well coated. The best way to do the breading is to have two or three people doing an assembly line. In the process your fingers usually get quite breaded, and you’ll probably have to stop to de-coat your bulbous fingers at least once, maybe a few times.

4. I put all the breaded schnitzels on a cookie sheet and leave them until the last minute to cook because they only take about five minutes per piece, and it is best to serve them freshly fried.

5. To fry them, just place them in about half a centimeter of oil. Cook at a medium heat until lightly brown. Place them in the oven at a low temperature while you finish cooking up the rest. I recommend you don’t stack them while you are waiting, because they will get a bit soggy. Just lay them out on a baking sheet or in a large Pyrex dish with a paper towel underneath.

Before you tuck in for your scrumptious meal, raise your pints, and say “nazdravi.” This means “cheers” in Czech!

Leanne comes from a long line of food lovers, and has been cooking since she was eight years old. She has spent many years creating the perfect chocolate chip cookie. In spite of all of her food experimentation, to this day her favourite meal is still a delicious bowl of popcorn.

//Leanne Kriz, columnist

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