Poppyseed Bread


 Baking Poppy seed bread was a family tradition started in a small village in Czechoslovakia called Olsavka. My grandmother, Mema, picked poppy seeds by hand and ground them to fill the center of this sweet roll bread.  In 1904, she and my great grandfather emigrated from their ancestral village by ship to the port of Ellis Island in New York. She met my grandfather in Yonkers, New York and moved to a farm in Shelton, Connecticut where they raised a family of four.  

Life in the United States was very different but she preserved her heritage by speaking the Slovak language and preparing Slovak cuisine.  Our family’s signature Slovak fare included Makowiec (poppy seed bread), Pierogi (dumplings filled with cheese and potatoes) and Holubky (stuffed cabbage). Christmas time to Slovak people is a very special time of the year spent eating, drinking, and singing Slovak songs. 

Mema and sister, Teta, had their own secret form making a delicious Makowiec. They heated the poppy seed in milk and the let the mix soak overnight. Honey and apricots were added to make a sweet paste. The sweet dough was rolled thin on a well- floured surface and coated with melted butter to help it stretch. A thick layer of poppy seed paste was packed inside and rolled up like a cinnamon roll. Slovaks believe that baking with poppy seeds will ensure a prosperous new year. 

Place(s): Czechoslovakia
Year: 1904

– TS

Relationship:  Grandchild of im/migrant Grandchild of im/migrant