The Cooking Magic of Elaine Badnarik




Michael, Charles, and Stephen learned to cook at a very early age. Home movies show us in the kitchen “helping” Mom to bake at ages 6, 4, and 3. We are covered in lard, and there is flour everywhere! Total chaos. As I got older, I asked my mother, “Were you nuts?! She smiled and responded, “I knew where you were, you were learning new skills, and it made you feel like you were part of the family. It was our mother-child bonding process.”

Elaine (Gima) Badnarik learned to cook from her mother and grandmother, both of whom were very stern and precise about the way things are done around the kitchen. Later, after marrying John Badnarik and beginning to raise three constantly-hungry boys who quickly grew to Paul Bunyan proportions, her cooking skills were strained to the breaking point. She is one of the few women who had a canoe paddle in her collection of cooking utensils. Her favorite ploy was to pull it out while neighbor ladies were watching her cook. When they asked, “Is that a canoe paddle?!, Mom would casually remark, “Yes. Don’t you have one?”

Mom said that my brothers and I “ate like locusts”. She would spend hours cooking, and fifteen minutes after we walked in the door, there was nothing left to eat. She said she was worried we would eat the wheat stalk pattern off the china. I was sixteen years old before I knew what left-overs were. A friend invited me for dinner. I asked what we were having. He said, “left-overs”. I said, “These look like pork chops.” The concept of leaving food on the table before you walked away was something I had never considered.

Mom used to ask my Slovak, paternal grandmother for recipes. They never quite worked out. Mom eventually realized that grandma was deliberately leaving out ingredients or crucial cooking steps. Apparently, you don’t get the full recipe if you’re not from the “old country”. Silly American woman!

Rest assured I haven’t done that to you. I have done my best to include all of the ingredients and all of the procedural steps along the way. If something is missing, it is an unintentional oversight. I have also done my best to interpret my mother’s recipes, which occasionally omitted details that she considered “obvious” because she had been cooking for so long.

I hope you enjoy trying these recipes. The only ingredient not explicitly listed is love, which my mother included in everything she made for us.

Live well. Love much. Laugh often.

It’s time to eat!</strong?


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