Meeting Lou and Trying Jaternice

Sorry, I couldn’t pass this one up!

First of all…  Happy Valentine’s Day to you and yours!  Be good to your other half!


At this time I am in Iowa City hanging out.  There were some employment issues (even in a van, I can’t live on 13 hours!) and I made yet another job change.  That, family worries, and the painful rotator cuff had put me in a worn down, depressed state.  A couple days out of town works wonders…

Thankfully, on Wednesday I met one of the coolest people on the planet.  She brightened the day and sold me something fun to eat on this latest “van trek”.

Lou, the “Meat Lady” is as fun as our products are tasty!

Just before leaving Cedar Rapids, I decided to visit “Lou the Meat Lady”, a colorful, lovable character who runs a meat shop in Cedar Rapids.  She is pictured to the left.

Lou is a super fun person.  She is featured in the recent TV ads in support of Cedar Rapids getting a casino (The vote is in March).  I won’t weigh in on whether or not we need gambling in town but would surely bet a twenty that it will pass.  *smile* 

Lou started the Village Meat Market and Cafe (a MUST VISIT) in that area of Cedar Rapids called “Czech Village”.  Czech Village and its wonderful museum were inundated by the 2008 flood of the mighty Cedar River.  The National Czech and Slovak Museum – the cornerstone of the settlement – was repaired and moved to higher ground.  Gone forever is Polena’s meat market, a beloved icon of the area locals affectionately call “Bohemie Town”.

During this time, Lou had a vision – to open a meat market and cafe that would help breathe new life into the area.  I think she is succeeding!  Her vibrant personality and old world recipes are like nothing you’ll find anywhere.  A quick check on will confirm how good the food is!  One favor – if you are a fan of Czech food and check out her website, please let Lou know you read about it on “Brad’s blog”.  I told her that her shop would be featured here.  She will really appreciate it!

This is going to be a great place to hang out besides being a great place to buy food.  Village Meat Market and Cafe has live music in addition to carryout “old world” style meat products that are perfectly seasoned and smoked.  What a find!  I’m excited about the entertainment!  It might be a good motivation to walk or bike across town and back in the weight loss effort.

Last night’s van dinner was Jaternice (pronounced like “Eeee-thur-neeet-suh”), purchased from Lou.  This traditional Czech sausage product comes in a casing but is often served fried or like a gravy with dumplings or sauerkraut.  It is made from various hog products including the snout, kidneys, liver, etc. as well as rice.  In fact, as I recall, the TV show “Bizarre Foods” featured a Jaternice product from a Decorah area market.  (UPDATE— A reader let me know the Travel Channel show is “Bizarre Foods America:  Iowa” and products will be featured from Polashek’s Locker Service in Protivin, Iowa… 10 miles from Decorah.   The show will air on February 25th at 8 PM).  The whole show will be devoted to Iowa products.  (I might have to visit some of the other places!)
Anyway, if you can get past the fact that jaternice is made with organs, you are in for a treat with little preparation needed.  You can just fry it up with eggs.  Also, jaternice and sauerkraut is easy to prepare on a camping trip! 

Here was another find.  If you like good sauerkraut, I would recommend this brand.  Unlike some of the others, it includes white wine.  So what?  When you cook it together with meat, the results are splendid.

I put the Jaternica links (they look like greyish polish sausage) in the van’s crock pot.  Eventually they disintegrated and turned into a mushy, crumbly meat gravy type thing.  No additional water was needed.  It took about two hours to cook.  And yes, it was salty…

We all know that sauerkraut gets a bad rap due to its preservation process.  1 cup has 560 or so milligrams of sodium.  Have you looked at your canned soup though?  How about sandwich meat?  It’s often much worse than that.  At least you can wash some of the salt off the kraut to make it a little healthier.

One word of warning…  Sauerkraut has a fair amount of dietary fiber.  One cup has about three grams.  If the sauerkraut and sausage don’t stink you out of the camper while it is cooking… well… let’s just say that the “after effects” might.   Thank goodness for the roof fan.
Last night was spent at the favorite Hills Campground south of Iowa City, reading and listening to public radio.  The initial plan was to primitive camp for a couple of days but a quick 10 minute visit to the Riverside Casino transformed a twenty dollar bill into forty bucks… covering two days of camping fees!  (But I won’t weigh in on if I want a casino in Cedar Rapids…)
In other news, I mentioned yet another employment change is on the horizon…  The work at the gas station was doable but after an employee returned from a leave of absence and I was cut from 35 to 13 hours (mainly 3 hours shifts) and it wasn’t worth it.  You can’t live on that… even in a van.  The next endeavor?  Delivering sub sandwiches!  (no, with my car, not the van!)
Take care and thanks for visiting.  I’m heading down the road to a place called Sam’s Steamed Caboose Burgers.  Geez, I hope they don’t serve sauerkraut…  :-/
Have a fun day!  Be good to your other half!
Bradford, the “Van Trekker”

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About VanTrekker

I am a former vandweller in Eastern Iowa who, for several years (off and on), lived in a 2007 Chevy cargo van. I still travel around Iowa with my tortoise shell cat, Jennifer Stefanie. Our favorite place to explore is the Country Heritage Community, the four far northeastern counties of Iowa (Clayton, Winneshiek, Allamakee, and Fayette). Ride along as we fish in pristine trout streams, enjoy fine home cooked camping meals, and meet new people. It's all possible on a shoestring budget. Happy travels always! --- Brad, the "Van Trekker"

4 Responses to Meeting Lou and Trying Jaternice

  1. Jerry says:

    I wouldn’t take a delivery job with your own car or gas , you will go BROKE FAST !!

  2. Brad says:

    02/18/2013… Once I got there for orientation, I found they were blowing smoke up my backside. The company was skimming most of the delivery charges and only paying a flat 50 cents to the driver.

    Example… A company five miles away orders ten subs, paying $.65 / sub for a delivery charge (total $6.50). I would still only get paid 50 cents to traverse ten miles. It would have meant me paying most of my tips for the privelege of delivering… I told my co-worker that street pimps keep less of a percentage than that… and decided it was not for me!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Thought I would let you know Polashek’s Locker from Protivin, Iowa will be featured on Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern. The show will air on February 25th at 8 PM on the Travel Channel and feature Andrew sampling Jaternice, Head Cheese, Pickled Pork Hocks, and Pickled Beef Tripe. The show is actually Bizarre Foods America – Iowa and will feature all Iowa businesses.

  4. Brad says:

    Thanks a bunch for the info. I had never heard of Protivin. It’s about 10 miles west/southwest of Decorah and not far from the Prairie Farmer Bike Trail (which I vowed to visit again when the weather warms up).

    I know there are a lot of Czech folk in this area… Spillville (and the Bily Clock Museum) was a great time.

    I will make sure to visit Provitin on the next trip to Decorah. Now the task is to find someone with cable TV so I can watch the Travel Channel. 🙂

    Jaternice… YUM!