Thursday, June 2, 2011


My eldest half-sister, Harriet, sustained a broken wrist last week and underwent surgery to have it pinned. We were at the farm and initially unable to be of assistance. However, sometimes it’s nice to assist later – after the initial flurry of interest and concern subsides. Harriet is now convalescing comfortably but she is one-handed.

So Tuesday afternoon, once we were back from the farm, I drove over to Harriet and Bill’s condo to see how they were getting along. I suggested I prepare a meal that the four of us could share. We settled on supper for Wednesday (yesterday).

But what to fix? I make palatable meals for the two of us regularly. Some of them are even delicious, if I do say so myself. But tell me I’m cooking for someone else and I have an immediate mental block. You’d think I’d never cooked. 

What would they like? I asked Harriet and Bill, and suddenly found myself suggesting goulash. Harriet and Bill agreed that would be fine. They hadn’t had goulash in – well, they couldn’t remember when. It was a good idea.

Goulash was my parents’ number one emergency meal-in-one casserole option. In fact, it was the only option, which is a little strange since they were both good cooks. I don’t know where the recipe originated, but I know we were eating it in the ‘50s. Unexpected company for dinner? No problem – serve goulash. Family in town for the county fair? Make a pot of goulash and keep it on the stove as a ready meal. Feeding a crowd? Triple the recipe. Rehearsal dinner for daughter’s wedding? Serve goulash. Left-over goulash? Excellent! Goulash is as good – even better – the second day after flavors have blended. I early learned to make the goulash, thus freeing my parents for other preparations. 

I’ve always tried to have more options in my recipe repertoire, but my parents didn’t think that way. Goulash was easy to prepare, inexpensive and tasty. What more could you ever want? Besides, it was easy to keep the ingredients on hand and the recipe is forgiving. Here it is in its original form with my notes in parentheses:

1 T fat (omit if desired)
½ lb hamburger (I use a pound.)
¼ cup onion
½ cup chopped green pepper
2 T Worcestershire Sauce
2 ½ cups tomatoes (I use one 28-oz. can with liquid.)
2 cups noodles
1 – 10.5 oz. can cream of mushroom soup
1 cup green beans (1 can with liquid)
½ cup diced celery
½ cup tomato puree
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
½ cup grated American cheese (Omit and pass the Parmesan.)

Melt fat. Add onions and hamburger. Cook ‘til brown. Add all except noodles. Cover. Simmer 25 minutes. Add noodles. Cover and simmer 20 minutes or ‘til tender. Sprinkle with cheese before serving.

Note that the recipe calls for only half a pound of hamburger. I’ve noticed that recipes coming out of the ‘30s and ‘40s use less meat. I add more if I have it. And I always omit the fat, though Mom and Dad started with a "healthy" tablespoon of bacon grease.  

My half-sister Joni loved goulash and continued the family tradition by preparing goulash as her signature meal. Mother used to laugh that Joni carefully guarded the recipe while I passed it out freely. In the early years of my marriage, I prepared it frequently, but I wasn’t the only one who noticed that the next generation, which included my children, didn’t much care for it. (I suppose it’s due to the tomatoes.) So, I drifted away from goulash and into lasagna or chicken enchiladas as my standards. 

It sure was good to share the old-time flavor of goulash with Harriet and Bill last night. I added a fruit salad, rolls, and a pumpkin cake that I knew Bill would enjoy. The meal was easy to pack and easy to serve. KW

[P.S. The photo is of Kathy with Harriet and Bill on their wedding day, June 14, 1953.  They will soon celebrate their 58th wedding anniversary.]


drMolly, the BeanQueen said...

Ah goulash - everyone of our generation had that to eat at one time or another and in one iteration or another. My mum made it too and on occasion I'll make it for my husband - who had a version, too in his youth. :~)

Leah said...

Love the wedding photo. It's refreshing to see a wedding picture where people aren't posed. What an attractive couple and you were adorable as a little girl, Kathy.

How nice of you to make dinner for your sister. They enjoyed your company as well as a great meal. Interesting story about how Goulash has been the family "emergency meal" for decades.

Good to see exact details in your Goulash recipe. When looking at old cookbooks, I groan when I see a can of something listed without specifying the size of the can. Didn't they know that a good recipe would be used long into the future and the can size was important!

Last time I took a meal to a sick friend was my mother's and my favorite dinner. Stewed chicken with thick home made noodles. After I made it at home in a large pot on the stove, I transferred it to a crock pot to keep warm at their house. Come to think of it, I always seem to make that same dish when someine is sick.

Get well wishes to Harriet and also Anniversary Congratulations. They deserve a trophy.

Chris said...

What a great picture of you, Harriet and Bill! Which church is that? It looks familiar.

I have an old recipe for goulash that I got from Mom, which she got from Maxine Musiel. I'll have to hunt it up and compare. And I know what you mean about cooking for someone else--it's like I never cooked before and nothing seems to be "good enough" to share. I'm sorry to hear about Harriet's accident, but I'm sure she really enjoyed the meal and your company.

Kathy said...

We were all eating goulash? Really!? I didn't know. I did, of course, know that there are other goulash recipes.

I think the photographer struggled to pose the flower girl. It was just yesterday that I, too, noticed how casual, relaxed and happy "we" looked.

The change in can sizes is subtle and seems to happen when we aren't looking. I was lamenting the other day that jars I have on hand are mostly three cups and not a quart.

And Chris -- That's the Methodist Church in Orofino. You know -- the same church in which you and Dan were married. But if memory serves, I think when they put that addition on the back, it affected the light that reflects to the window.

Yes, that's it -- nothing seems good enough to share, and then indecisiveness sets in.

Chris said...

Aha! That explains why it looked familiar, but not quite. I couldn't remember the window light and now you have explained it.

Can and bottle sizes do make cooking from old recipes a struggle. I even have some old recipes that read "#2 can of..." or something like that. Maybe I could google it?? :-)

Chris said...

I *did* google it--a #2 can is 20 ounces. Gotta love the internet!!