One of the constants in my life was coming home from school (elementary, high school, and college) knowing there would be a hot meal waiting for me when I got there. I hope that you recall similar happy memories. I know that food is the second strongest motivator in life.
My mother was an excellent cook, and she taught my brothers and me how to prepare delicious meals for ourselves. In fact, during my first camping trip with the Boy Scouts, I suddenly realized that Mom would not be there to feed me. This is the reason that my first merit badge was for cooking. I may not be good enough to work in the kitchen of a five-star restaurant, but I will never die of hunger. Many people have expressed a desire to be close to me if survival ever becomes a daily necessity.
Today, “the Ides of March”, would have been my mother’s 86th birthday. Now, five years after my mother’s passing, I have taken the time to compile dozens of her recipes into a book called The Cooking Magic of Elaine Badnarik. All of my favorites are in there, including her secret recipe for spaghetti sauce that she refused to share with anyone. I have included commentary with some of the recipes, such as:
* Feeds 12 normal people, or three Badnarik boys.
* This is a great recipe for lazy bachelors, or for busy mothers who are trying to feed several noisy children.
* This recipe is more about technique than ingredients. This is also one of my specialties. I used to make crepes for breakfast for my dates… assuming they were still there in the morning.
The cookbook is self-explanatory. The concept for dinner is this. I spend the day making my mother’s famous spaghetti sauce. Two or three couples arrive at my apartment at 6:00pm for a fantastic Italian dinner, followed by conversation about any topic the group decides to investigate. At midnight the “restaurant” closes, and I send you home with left-overs… assuming there are any.
Here is the cover to the book. I’ve included the text from the back cover below.
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!