There are certain sights, smells and tastes that are indicative of a certain place. I’m not necessary talking about only a physical place but also a place in time. These tastes and scents from the past emerge from the smallest of places, but can generate the strongest memories. They exist only in specific places. The koláče from The Village Bakery in my hometown of West, TX is one of those foods and one of those places.
I lived in West from the time I was 2 years old until I graduated high school at the age of 18. Now, I’m the first to admit that I left town as soon as I could and have seldom looked back. But certain memories always lingered. Like the memory of walking everyday from my father’s grocery store, down the ally and around the corner to The Village Bakery and buying a cherry koláče.
The koláče (pronounced Ko-la-che) is a simple, fruit or cheese filled pastry with a light, buttery bread base. Not a doughnut, not a Danish, the kolache is a uniquely Czech creation and nobody; I mean nobody, makes them better than The Village Bakery.
Established in 1952 by Wendel and Georgia Montgomery, the bakery is one of the cities oldest businesses. They established a tradition of making their offerings completely from scratch. No canned fillings, no pre-made dough. Everything you buy there was made on the spot that day, sometimes-just minutes before you eat it.
I have a special fondness for this place not just as a customer, but for another reason. When I was in 7th grade I did my first camera interview with Mr. Montgomery as part of an assignment for my English class. I shot it on Super 8mm film and used a cassette tape recorder to capture the sound. These were the days before home video cameras, but no, the camera was not hand-cranked. I don’t remember how the project turned out or what grade I received. It must have been ok because I did eventually graduate.
If you find yourself anywhere near West, TX, I urge you with all seriousness to drive past the roadside touristy koláče store on the highway and venture into my home town to visit The Village Bakery. Accept nothing less than the authentic kolace experience.
The koláče is on of those foods that feeds the soul. They remind us of that past. They remind us where we come from. They remind us of home.