I had the wonderful opportunity to help my Dad with a collection of endearing stories that we put together in a short manuscript titled “When I was Kid”, a memoir, if you will. Siblings had been bracing him for a while to produce it, for many reasons. Last year, around June or July, he decided he was going to finally do it, get it done, and distribute it to my brother and sisters for Christmas.
I have previously mentioned that Dad was not well. He had diabetes, insulin dependent and prostate cancer, diagnosed as terminal in May of 2008. I was fortunate enough to be around to help them, as needed. (I would submit to you that your life can take a new slant when you have had a discussion with your father’s oncologist about issues of “co-morbidity”.) Dad had a fairly advanced neuropathy condition and couldn’t write very legibly at all; a circumstance that he personally struggled with regularly. He and Mom had a small microcassette recorder and I had a small digital recorder, so, despite some operational technical difficulties we managed to get into a rhythm of sorts in producing this story of his childhood. We would swap recorders or tapes and I would bring them home and transcribe what he had dictated. In short, this process was something that is hard to describe. We laughed, we cried, it was frustrating at times and heartwarming in other times. Ultimately the piece was produced, bound and sent out in time enough to get under everyone’s Christmas trees.
Long story short (I promise, I am getting to the recipe…), in one of the sections of this piece Dad spoke fondly of family meals, particularly during the holidays when everyone got together. In an excerpt from the section about some of his relatives, he says:
“My Aunt Abby and Uncle Fred got along very well with my parents. This group of relatives would always have holiday dinners with each other, taking turns as to whose house was hosting. Whose turn is it; it’s your turn, and so forth. No one ever ate alone on the holidays. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year; they all took turns celebrating. It was great, I’ll tell you…we had great times. After the meals they would break out the cards and they played for hours.”
There may be numerous times that I will refer to this document to describe what I consider to be the foundation for how I was raised and the importance of how our family got together on holidays and for parties. There is strong tie to this and the foods associated with these gatherings and celebrations. Numerous “favorite” dishes, shared and consumed with friends and loved ones…comfort foods? You bet!
Please find below one of my all-time favorites. When we were growing up, we could request (within reason) whatever we wanted for our birthday dinners and I remember that this dish was ordered by me frequently. It was originally provided to my Mom from Dad’s Mom and has been in the family for years…
Hungarian Goulash (Margaret Emma Swartfegger)
Dredge (lightly coat in flour) and brown in 4 tbsp. fat (Vegetable Oil, or Olive Oil will do):
2 lbs. beef cubes
Add and brown:
1 cup sliced onions
1 clove finely minced garlic
¾ cup catsup
2 ¼ tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. (cider) vinegar
1 tbsp. brown sugar
½ tsp. paprika
1 tsp. dry mustard
2 tsp. salt
Dash of red pepper
3 cups of water
Thicken with 2 tbsp. of flour mixed with a ¼ cup of water
Cook and simmer for 2 ½ hours
Serve over noodles (wide, or extra wide egg noodles are the preference)