“This book describes my family’s life, which is full of historical experiences going through the Hitler era, the Stalin regime, and communism, to the current decade in the United States. The accounts of our experiences reflect the time from the 1940s, when my mother’s family had no electricity or water in their home in a village in Poland, to my successful career as an award-winning chef and comfortable married life in the United States.”
“Brush with the Edge of Time and Profession is a deeply personal book that details the joys and sorrows of a mother and son. Their stories are equally inspiring and celebrate the human heart and demonstrate how one can survive even in the most difficult circumstances.”
“These lifelong memories are about wonder and about kindness, they are about being open to the gifts of both the light and the shadows of our experience.
—The US Review of Books
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|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.62(d)|
About the Author
Born in Linz-Austria raised in Poland. Chef Edward Nowakowski comes to the U.S. with three years of Culinary School, a Master Chef Diploma and numerous awards for Garde-Manger work under his belt. Chef Edward seized the opportunity for opening several new Hotels; include Hyatt N.Y. Four Seasons in Dallas TX, Hilton Hotel in Norfolk Virginia, and many more, as well as Wilson Conference at The University of Memphis. Though trained in classical components of French and South-Eastern European cuisine's he adapts his cooking to the local area where he works and prepares a superb quality of Ethnic cuisines exquisitely presented with elegance and prepare a menu to suit any taste as well as offer exemplary service.
In honor of my mother, I wanted to share my immigration journey," says Nowakowski "My mother-and me, for that matter-were survivors of the Nazi occupation of Poland in World War II."
His own life has been one of the great changes, which his mother, Stanislawa "Stasia" Nowakowski, didn't let him forget.
"My mother inspired me to write the memoir," he says. "Brush with Edge of Time and Profession".
The first three chapters are her life, in her own words, incredible accouters during the Nazi occupation of Europe, her life with the baby (Edward) in labor camp in Linz Austria, difficulties to get back home after the war through ruins of towns, going straight to the jaws of another monster Stalin.
Remaining chapters Chef Edward describe his youth under the communism system and educational stages of his culinary institute much different than in current edge.
His life journey has taken him from infancy in makeshift quarters above a labor camp barn to an international culinary career of distinction. He is food beverage executive, master chef, consultant and he's an instructor of cuisine and restaurant management.
He tells of his lifetime love, Julia, wife who came from Poland to America to be with me, he says' and our experiences as we traveled around the U.S. with my work assignments.
Chef Edward and his wife, Julia-a pastry chef, have been married 39 years, and have two children residing in Europe.
Last, is the tale of our fight with the dread disease "CANCER" which consumed us both, and which finally took my beloved Julia away from me.
Read an Excerpt
A Brush With the Edge of Time and Profession
By Edward Nowakowski
Trafford PublishingCopyright © 2014 Chef Edward Nowakowski
All rights reserved.
Mother's Story (In her own words)
(My mother's experiences at the beginning and during the German occupation of Poland; how she arrived in Linz, Austria, as forced labor at a farm; where she meets many other people taken by the Germans to forced labor in much worse circumstances than her's; her feeling of total loss of control in her life; the hatred she felt toward the Germans; her pregnancy, my birth, and the severe consequences of her motherhood during the war; as well the negative attitude of Austrian farmers toward the war and Hitler's politics.)
Some noise woke me. I roused myself a little and noticed that my mother was working at the morning farm chores. I just wanted to turn over and go back to sleep, but my mom's voice insisted, "Stasia, it is time to get up! We have plenty of work to do before you go to town with your father!"
Oh yes, I remembered, we had been talking last night about it. We needed to go to town to get more supplies.
Over the last few days, we had collected some fresh eggs. Maybe we would be lucky enough to trade these eggs for sugar, and the salt was almost gone. We also needed some fatback, to melt for lard. If we had any pork or goose meat left over, my mom could make such good rillettes. The breads we had been baking every two weeks were now stale, and all of us were tired of eating plain bread, or just bread with milk.
Before the German invasion, our pigsty and stable were always occupied by two pigs and two or three cows. Now just one cow remained, and she didn't give us enough milk to make the heavy cream needed for butter.
"Stasia! You better get up! It is getting late!" my mom called.
The fresh coffee was made and slices of bread had been toasted over the flattop stove. The aroma of toasting bread made me get up quickly.
I went to the kitchen and poured water from the bucket into the washbowl. Just like Mom had told me many times, with each splash of water washing my face, I prayed: "God, please wash my soul of my sins."
I poured hot coffee into my drinking cup, added some milk, and took a sip. "Mom, this coffee is good, but the other day I was talking with Kazia from Wisnioskiego. She says the Germans have different coffee, natural coffee. She said it is really good."
"Well, it must be good," Mom says. "That's not wheat coffee, like ours. We can't afford such a delicacy. That's for rich people! You remember one time we got a package from my sister in the USA? That was the same kind of coffee as in Germany. I wanted to leave it at home, but your father asked me to sell it. We needed the money. But you need to add more cycoria (Cichorium intybus). That will improve the flavor of your coffee."
"Mama," I asked. "What is cycoria?"
"I don't know either, but it is produced in Belgium from endive roots. Your father told me it was used by the soldiers to sweeten coffee, especially wheat coffee." That's what they had been drinking during the First World War when he was the soldier.
At that moment, Father came into the house with a half a basket of fresh mushrooms. He had just picked them in the forest this morning. I was so excited! I loved baked mushrooms!
Following the religious custom of our Catholic faith, Father said, "Praise God!" at the doorway and asked me if I was ready to go with him to town. "Yes, Papa," I replied. "Just let me dress and eat something."
Father went to the kitchen stove and reached for the toasted bread. "Hey! This bread is too dry! We must remember to take the bread slices from the stove so they will not become too dry and hard. But we can still eat them dipped in the milk."
Mom returned from milking the cow, the fresh milk still warm with foam on the top. I took a large cup and gave one to my father. I wanted to pick some nice wild bottom mushrooms for baking, but my father said, "Do not take more than one or two mushrooms. We can go to the forest to pick mushrooms again tomorrow. I want to take these to town."
I picked two mushrooms, cleaned them dry and sprinkled them with salt, then put them on the top of the stove. I stuck a piece of wood into the fire chamber to make sure the flattop was hot.
The door from the bedroom opened and the rest of my family came out, my four younger sisters, Frania, Kasia, Zosia, Marysia, and my younger brother, Wladek. Wladek went directly outside. My sisters wanted a cup of milk with some bread. They also wanted some mushrooms, but my father wouldn't let them have any.
"Tomorrow we can have lots more. I think there will be enough for everybody to eat and maybe enough to put some mushrooms on the string and dry them in the sun for wintertime. These are so nice and healthy," he said, "they will be easy to sell." We didn't go to town as often as in the old days before the German invasion; but now if we went to market, we needed to barter as much we could.
My brother Wladek suddenly reacted angrily and slammed the door as he went outside again. I went after him to calm him down. I stopped him and asked, "Why are you showing such a temper?"
"Why? We have to starve all the time! Can't we do better like our cousins in Przemysl? They can get jobs and work for money! We just sell what we can put our hands on or sell what the Germans don't want to take away from us!"
"Wladek, you know this is a very tough time now and we have to do anything we can to survive and to be away from town. We have a better chance to survive and be together."
Then Mom called, "Wladek, can you bring me some fire logs so I can cook zacierka (milk-potato soup) for breakfast for everybody?" Wladek's face automatically brightened, and immediately he ran to get some firewood from the large stacks around the stable walls.
Every year during the fall, my father and Wladek worked very hard to bring plenty of large logs from the forest, and then they cut them into small pieces. These pieces were chopped into fire logs and stored around the stable walls. Chopping the logs was hard work; but it was also a lot of fun, with everybody taking a turn chopping when their chores were done and they had spare time.
The crisp morning breeze and the moist early spring air reminded me I was outside. The sun was just beginning to glide through the foggy sky, touching mostly the wooded area. It was still early morning. As I looked at the beautiful massive fog hanging over the impassable forest area, a few bashful beams of sunlight began to shine directly on our house, causing me to take a closer look at it.
The house was build of wooden logs, and inside all the walls were plastered completely with clay. Outside the plaster was only between the logs. It looked nice. I could hardly believe that my father had built such a nice house all by himself. Three quarters of the house contained the door, three windows at the front, and one window on the side. The middle of the house was designated for the antechamber, a large storage area, the kitchen, and a bedroom. One quarter of the house had only one door and no windows, only a small opening in the sidewall designed for the stable. The door to the stable was sealed with tresses made of straw to prevent any odor leaks. In the past, during good years, three cows stayed in the stable. Flower gardens were located on the east side of the house; the pigsty and stable were on the northwest side.
A beautiful bouquet of rose buds had just started to open, showing their colors, climbing over the fence made of sticks. I wanted to cut a few stems of roses so that we could enjoy them as they opened into blooms, but I decided I had better ask mom. The roses were her prized jewels. She always took some flowers to church on Sunday; but now we needed to wait longer to cut them, since they were just starting to bloom. At the front of the house on the other side of the driveway, the vegetable garden was just starting to turn green.
A drop of cold water fell on my head. I looked up to see the dripping of morning sweat from the straw roof. Then I noticed a few spots of different colored straw on the side of the roof. It looked like Father was replacing the damaged straw to plug the holes. Some of the wooden sticks holding the roof together had been cut loose, maybe from the heavy snow during the winter. I needed to show that to my father before it got worse.
My sister Marysia came to me and said, "Mom wants you to come home for breakfast and get ready to go to town. Please tell Mom I want to go with you! I always go to church on Sunday but I never get to go to the market!"
"Marysia, in these days of war, it is not that easy and secure to go there. Be patient! The time will come for you too. Don't blame Mom! She is very worried about all of us, and she wants you to be here for your own protection!"
Approaching the door of the house, a wonderful, familiar aroma touched my nose, the fresh cooked (zacierka) potato-noodles milk soup. My mom gave me a bowl of soup and a large piece of toasted bread, with the reminder, "It is getting late! You still have to go to town with your father!"
I just wanted to sit somewhere, but all the places around the small kitchen table and side chairs were already taken. The kitchen was silent. My sisters and brother were eating. From time to time you could hear the clinking noises of spoons being dipped into the soup bowls and the slurping sounds of soup being sucked into their mouths to avoid being burned with hot soup.
I found a place to sit outside on the specially constructed bench under the front windows of the house. The soup was hot and very good, the potatoes crunchy and the freshly made noodles of rye flour all-dente, but I had to eat the soup slowly because it was really hot. The cat came closer to me and weaved around my legs, asking me to spill a little soup from my bowl for him.
Suddenly on the west side of the house there was chaos, chickens and geese were running in every direction, squawking and honking loudly. My mom and father and brother bolted from the house and ran in the same direction. My heart was beating so fast, but I wanted to see what had happened, and I ran after them.
The squawking and honking of the chickens and geese stopped, and my father was cursing; I could see he was very upset. Then I saw what had happened. A falcon had snatched one of the baby chickens. Father promised to kill a few falcons and hang their dead bodies high on the trees to keep them from coming and hunting our poultry!
My mom was upset as well, complaining that something was always happening; falcons or foxes snatching the poultry, or wild boars eating the potatoes, destroying large chunks of the potato plantation. It was so tough to manage everything, working hard for such little results; and even the little we had was taken by the Germans to feed their army so they were strong enough to kill us.
As I came back to my place, I noticed our cat was eating out of my bowl, which I had left on the bench. I just looked at him and let him finish eating, thinking, "What a morning! I hope the rest of the day will be better!"
Finally, my father and I were ready to go to town. We had two baskets with us, one filled with 50 fresh eggs and the other with two halfliter cups filled with fresh butter and some fresh capé' mushrooms picked this morning.
The town of Nienadowa was about eight to ten kilometers away. We should be there in two and half hours; or if we were lucky and got someone on the road to give us a ride, then we would be there sooner.
My youngest sister Zosia was asking me to bring her back a French roll from town. I told her, "I will if Father will let me do it." We were a few hundred yards from home and I could still hear Zosia reminding me about that French roll! I thought to myself, "She must be very tired of having Mom's homemade yeast rye bread every single day."
My father was a very strong man, walking fast, and sometimes I needed to run to keep up with him. We were still about another twenty minutes from the main road. My basket was becoming heavier as we walked, and I tried to switch baskets with my father, but his basket was even heavier. My father told me when we got to the main road he would take one side of my basket to help share the weight of it; but for now it was impossible to do, because the country road was too narrow and furrowed to walk together side by side.
Even with the inconvenience of the basket, I was excited to get to town! I was looking forward to seeing some other people, perhaps some good looking boys! In our village, the houses were spread a great distance from each other, so even neighbors didn't see each other very often. And I desperately wanted to trade or sell our goods and get the supplies we needed for our home. Maybe I could look at some shoes or dresses! I knew we had no money, and what we were going to sell would surely not bring enough for such things as I would like; but if I could just see how much they cost, maybe I could save some money from a job on the neighbor's farm. Now, in the springtime, they always needed help.
My father's voice broke into my meditations. "Stasia, we are approaching the main road. Come closer so I can grab one handle of your basket to help you."
"Oh, that really helps!" I said.
"Now we can walk. Take it easy, Stasia. Watch where you're going! There is a horse carriage behind us!"
From the other side of the road, a military truck was approaching us; and right behind them were two motorcycles with German soldiers driving. My heart started to beat a little faster and a feeling of fear tightened my chest. I had never seen German soldiers before at such a close distance. I was looking at my father. He just walked with his head down. I could see his troubled eyes with eyebrows pulled together. He pulled on the basket that I shared with him to get my attention and said, "Don't look at them! Just walk with me, faster!"
When the truck and motorcycles passed, a wonderful smell filled the air around us. I asked my father if he smelled it. "What is it?"
"You can see they have a mobile kitchen attached to the truck, still steaming." He told me to be careful because at the market there may be more German soldiers.
From a side road, some other people were coming in and joining us. We started a conversation. They were from this area. The old man remembered my father from church. The other man, his son, started talking about the Germans and Ukrainians. I was too frightened to listen to all of that, but one thing caught my attention. "The Germans are picking people from each home in each village and sending them away. We are not sure yet, but they are probably going to work in Germany somewhere. None of the people who were taken away have contacted their families yet. Many families are still waiting and praying for any information from the family members taken by the Germans. Some of them have waited more than six months."
A chill flowed through my body when I thought about such a situation in our family. But I was explaining to myself, "We are too far away from the village, living in the mountains. They may overlook us."
Then a loud noise of motors drew my attention, a convoy of six or seven German trucks were driving right behind us. My father pulled me to the side of the road, almost into the ditch. I was looking at the big trucks. Only one, the first one, was filled with soldiers. The other trucks were empty.
My father held me so tightly that my arm was hurting. I tried to loosen his grip, but my father straightened more and pulled me closer to his side. Finally, the convoy passed, and my father released my arm, telling me, "They should slow down a little! They see people on the road!" The old man with his son went ahead, walking faster.
Finally, we got to the area with sidewalks and houses. We were approaching the city market. I could see more people and the market fence. At the gate, a uniformed man was collecting the entry fee and my father paid him. Some people from our village had taken a space in the market and had set up a portable table with cheeses, eggs, and sauerkraut. Other people were selling their goods straight from their horse carriages.
We placed our open baskets just on the ground. It had been such a long time since I was here, but looking around, everything looked the same, just as it had some time ago. People were trading and bargaining all over the place.
I wanted to fix my basket of eggs, which were covered with straw, so that the people could see them, when suddenly I noticed big shiny boots in front of me. I looked up and my heart stopped beating! There was a German officer looking at me! I felt the hand of my father on my arm. The German officer looked at us and slowly moved on. Right behind him another soldier was passing, looking even more evil with his machine gun in his hands. I noticed there were many solders all around the place. Then I noticed the difference in the market — the people's behavior! The people were not so happy like the other times I had been there. Trading and bargaining was done to the point; nobody was joking or telling stories. Everybody was trying to do their business and go. There was tension in the air. I also absorbed that tension, especially when I saw those big shiny boots right in front of me!
Excerpted from A Brush With the Edge of Time and Profession by Edward Nowakowski. Copyright © 2014 Chef Edward Nowakowski. Excerpted by permission of Trafford Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 — Mother's Story (As told to me), 1,
Chapter 2 — Mother and Her "Beautiful" Son (As told to me), 64,
Chapter 3 — Mother, Father and Me, 97,
Chapter 4 — Growing Up With My Family, 113,
Chapter 5 — Beginning My Career in Poland, 140,
Chapter 6 — My First Marriage, Then to America, 166,
Chapter 7 — In America, My Chef's Career, 206,
Chapter 8 — My Beloved Julia, 272,