Angeline Poje Yadrich believes there’s love in every Slovenian, especially when it comes to matters of faith, family and food. Yadrich, 87, was raised in the Kansas City, Kan., Strawberry Hill neighborhood, where her parents eventually settled after emigrating from Slovenia. The tiny country in south-central Europe borders Italy, Austria, Croatia and Hungary, with a landscape that includes the Alps and coastlines along the Mediterranean and Adriatic seas.
Yadrich has lived for 60 years in the same Kansas City, Kan., house, where she and her husband, George Yadrich — who died in 1987, raised a dozen children. Today, Yadrich’s 10 remaining children take turns visiting her, as she cultivates a close-knit family that includes 19 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
Q: What is your secret to the fountain of youth?
A: The good Lord has blessed me with a wonderful family that comes to eat with me, and every one of my children has an appointed day. My son comes to my home after work every night and pours me my elderberry wine. I’m lucky that I don’t take any prescriptions — you might say the wine is my medicine.
Whenever I experience life’s aches and pains, I just pray. And here I am, still living in this house, so blessed with family and good friends. Even though I’m near 90, I still learn new things every day.
Q: Can you articulate what your Slovenian heritage means to you?
A: I was born and raised in Wyandotte County among Slovenians and Croatians in the tight-knit Strawberry Hill neighborhood. My husband, George, was Croatian. I was born the youngest of 10 children to my father and mother, Jacob and Mary Poje. When I was born, we lived in a house on Fowler Avenue, which was razed when the highway cut through our neighborhood.
My parents passed on to me the values of hard work, faith, food and fun, too. Mama raised chickens and pigs. I had to gather eggs, and we grew and butchered our own food. I learned how to make chicken and noodles, strudels, coleslaw and potato salad. The Slovenians know how to use simple ingredients — butter, cream, potatoes, garlic, onion, vinegar and cabbage — to make delicious dishes.
Q: Will you get a taste of your Slovenian culture this weekend?
A: I’m not able to go to Slovenefest this Saturday at Holy Family Church, but it comes to me. The stairs are too difficult for me, so I just sit on my porch and people come by to visit.
I know many volunteers have made a lot of food — 200 apple strudels, 150 pounds of Slovenian potato salad and 1,000 sarma or cabbage rolls. There’s also smoked sausage and, of course, sauerkraut. I always buy a plate of food, and they bring it to me on my porch. But, I will say, you don’t have to be Slovenian to enjoy the food and entertainment at the festival.
Q: Why did you share this recipe for Slovenian Rosettes?
A: Holy Family Church has been an important part of my life — it was even constructed the year I was born. All of my children went to grade school there, and I have made many hundreds of these rosettes for functions at the church. The ingredients aren’t fancy — it’s just eggs, milk, sugar, flour and salt — but they look fancy and special. It’s all about the technique of making sure the rosette irons are hot, so the batter will stick to it as it’s lowered into the oil.
It’s hard for me to stand and make these by myself, but my daughters are very helpful and know how to make them. This recipe makes many rosettes, and there’s just something about making a batch of these and being able to feed a lot of people. I have deep roots here, and both faith and food are important to this community.
Mary G. Pepitone is a freelance writer who lives in Leawood. She also writes a nationally syndicated home column. Email her at email@example.com to nominate a cook.
The Eighth Annual Slovenefest is Sept. 24, beginning at 4 p.m. with Mass at Holy Family Catholic Church, 274 Orchard St., in Kansas City, Kan. Dinner, auction and entertainment will be 5-10 p.m. at 513 Ohio St., For more information, see www.HolyFamilyChurchKCK.com.
Makes 4 dozen
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 (3-pound) container solid vegetable shortening, for frying
Powdered sugar, for garnish
Whisk eggs, milk, sugar and salt together in a large bowl. Whisk in flour until batter is just combined. Do not overmix, or rosettes will blister when fried. Mixture should be less thick than a cake batter. If batter is too thick, add more milk, 1 teaspoon at a time. If batter is too runny, add more flour, 1 teaspoon at a time. Set aside.
Melt enough shortening in a 4-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan on stovetop over medium-high heat or in a deep electric skillet to create 3 inches of oil. Heat oil to 400 degrees.
Add rosette irons to oil and allow to heat at least 1 minute, or until temperature returns to 400 degrees.
Carefully lift rosette iron out of pan, allowing excess oil to drip off.
Immediately place hot iron in batter and dip all but the top edge of iron into batter for 3 seconds. The batter should adhere to the iron, then immediately place rosette iron covered in batter into hot oil.
Do not allow the iron to touch the bottom of the hot oil pan or the rosette will shatter. Allow rosettes to fry for about 35 to 40 seconds or until golden brown. When frying, the rosette cookie should release from the iron. Using tongs, carefully turn over rosette, so it browns evenly on both sides.
Carefully place fried rosette on a platter lined with paper towels.
Allow rosette to drain, then continue to make more cookies in the same manner, heating the iron in oil before dipping it into batter. Continue process until all batter is used.
Dust cooled rosettes with powdered sugar and store loosely in large containers, layering the rosettes between pieces of waxed or parchment paper.
Do not put a lid on the container, as rosettes will become soggy. Rosettes are best when prepared and eaten the same day.
Note: Rosette irons are available at kitchen supply stores. Pryde’s Old Westport in Kansas City has a Norpro brand rosette iron for $15.99.
Per rosette: 48 calories (72 percent from fat), 4 grams total fat (1 gram saturated), 9 milligrams cholesterol, 2 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram protein, 28 milligrams sodium, trace dietary fiber.