Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Feature: Thinking out of the buns

Brat. Just mentioning this one syllable word instantly brings to mind mental slideshows of a juicy, flavorful goodness that is just as much a part of Wisconsin lifestyle and culture as beer and cheese. Although most people stick to the traditional tailgate version when it comes to brats, there are a select few out there who prefer to think outside of the bun. UW students Noel Benedetti and Liz Baranowicz fall into the latter group. Taking a do-it-yourself approach, the two created “The Brat Book,” a self-made cookbook loaded with more than 30 unconventional recipes starring this Wisconsin staple.

When Benedetti and Baranowicz, who became best friends during their high school years in Florida, left their home state to attend UW, they made a joint decision to fully embrace the Wisconsin culture, especially the state’s love of brats.

“We decided to go all in, embrace the Sconnie-ness and make brats every week with the intention of perfecting the brat,” Baranowicz said.


“We never set to create a cookbook,” Benedetti added. “It started with the concept of ‘Brat Tuesday,’ a day to cook brats and have friends over to indulge in them, and it kind of snowballed from there.”

Although the two didn’t have a lot of prior cooking experience coming into college, they quickly became avid home cookers thanks in part to the establishment of Brat Tuesday. However, after a few months and dozens of combinations of brats and beers, Benedetti and Baranowicz grew tired of bun-centric recipes. Hence, the inspiration for “The Brat Book” began.

“Sometimes when we’d be eating one week’s brat meal with friends, someone would say, ‘Oh, you know what would be awesome? Brat something or other,'” Baranowicz said. “Or dishes that we liked that were never made with brats, we would find a way to incorporate them.”

One dish that “turned out to lend itself wonderfully to brats,” according to Baranowicz, was biscuits and gravy, a personal favorite of hers when she was growing up in the South.

“The Brats for Breakfast recipes were my personal favorites,” Benedetti added. “I also think they were the most creative. Some of the better ones are brat scones, biscuits and brat gravy and brat quiche. They were all home runs.”

Along with the Brats for Breakfast category, the cookbook also includes Brats on Buns (Bacon Bratdog, Brat Cheeseburger), Brat Takes on Classics (Sloppy Brats, Brat Chili, Bratloaf) and Brats Around the World (Brat Nachos, Brat Jambalaya, Brat Fried Rice).

As is the case with any kind of cooking, though, not every dish turned out quite like Benedetti and Baranowicz had hoped. One particular disaster that didn’t make the cookbook was the pair’s recipe for Brat Wellington.

“The Brat Wellington was a fantastic idea, and a vaguely horrifying reality,” Baranowicz said. “It tasted good, but it took both of us a couple hours to make it badly. I can’t imagine what it takes to make it well.”

“It always came out looking like a lumpy mess,” Benedetti agreed. “For anyone who’s ever attempted pastry and baking, I’m sure you can appreciate the sheer ridiculousness of that one.”

Although most of the time was spent having fun experimenting with no intention of creating a cookbook, after two years Benedetti and Baranowicz completed all the recipes for “The Brat Book.” But the work didn’t stop there for the two students, who spent the next several months editing, printing and re-editing.

“I never knew editing a cookbook could be so daunting,” Benedetti said. “It’s harder than you’d think.”

“I agree. I had no idea one could spend so much time discussing how to abbreviate the word ‘tablespoon.’ It gets old,” Baranowicz said.

Placing an emphasis on local sourcing, Benedetti and Baranowicz not only worked out all the recipes on their own, but they also self-published and marketed their two-and-a-half year labor of love, paying for the entire process out of their own pockets. The two even turned to local tattoo artist Dave Marshall to create the cookbook’s illustrations.

“Liz and I both have a lot of tattoos, and we’re fans of the traditional tattoo style, which usually includes sexy, pinup ladies,” Benedetti said. “When we decided to style the graphic design after 1950s aesthetics, tattoo style ladies seemed like a natural fit.”

In the end, Benedetti and Baranowicz were able to put together something that’s all their own, while, in the process, inspiring not only brat lovers and newbies to try something different, but also anybody out there who is timid about starting their own do-it-yourself project, whatever it may be.

“Don’t be afraid to go for it,” Benedetti said. “People have been extremely encouraging and receptive, more so than I ever expected.”

“Put in the work, and you can absolutely achieve do-it-yourself success,” Baranowicz added. “‘The Brat Book’ took hundreds of hours of our time, but in reality, not that much money. Yes, we had setbacks, but we kept going, and it paid off.”

“The Brat Book” official release party will take place at The Frequency on Sunday, Dec. 13 at 6 p.m. The cookbook will retail for $13.99 and will be for sale at local bookstores and direct from the authors through [email protected].

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