Family. What really does that word mean? To me, it means people that stick together no matter what. People who love you for who you are and in spite of who you are. They are people you can count on when your world turns upside down or sideways. For me, shared meals have always been a time when we can all sit together and bond over food that has been cooked for us with love. We each have our quirks and faults but there never seems to be anything that a bit of love and understanding can’t overcome. No matter how busy or challenging our lives get, we can lean on each other for support.
After I became a mother I realized the family mealtime meant so much now more than it had ever before. It didn’t matter who was in soccer or dance, karate, hockey, or football. I always make it a point to have everyone home together for at least one meal a day. Eating together is always interesting and admittedly sometimes we are all so hungry not a lot is being said but at least we were eating together at that one moment of time. Once, when the kids were smaller, hubby and I toyed with the idea of getting each kid to research a topic for discussion that they would lead at the dinner table. Topics could have included anything from sports to current events to Dr. Who. We got this idea from hubby’s grandparents who did this with their 8 children. Of course, they were all quite close in age so I can just imagine how frenzied the dinner discussion must have been on some evenings. I’ve had the interesting experience of dining with his whole family and I’ll admit it was a bit intimidating. The family table conversation of my youth was pretty low key. We never really followed through on this idea for our own little family as our conversation always seems to take on it’s own.
This past weekend I had the pleasure of hosting our extended family Thanksgiving. We’ve realized now that we are all older (and mostly married) that having holidays together is never a given so not having my dad and youngest sibling there was a bit hard on everyone, especially my little sister. Everyone arrived on Thursday night within a couple of hours of each other, each carload traveling from an opposite direction to converge upon my house in Calgary. I thought a lot about our first meal together. It had to be something relatively easy, delicious, and not to exotic as there are a couple of ‘traditionalist’ in the crowd (and yes, that is a nice word for picky). Dinner also had to be something my other sister could eat as she is on a very strict dietary program for her health. I’m not always sure what she can eat but I know she can eat meat so I picked our family’s favourite, Herzog Goulash.
Herzog Goulash is a simple meat dish that has been made in our family for generations. It is a recipe that was passed down to us from at least our great grandparents, through our grandpa Herzog. It’s a very frugal dish, with very few ingredients and it is best when made with wild meat of any sort. I’ve had it with moose, elk, deer, goose, kangaroo, and yes, even beef. The meat is usually in large cubes which is slow cooked in a heavy pot with salt, pepper, tomato paste, vinegar, garlic and onions. The smell of goulash cooking as I walked into grandma’s kitchen has always immediately sent my taste buds to salivating mode.
Herzog Goulash is a dish that to me is the comfort of family, and home. The first time I left home was for university. I lived on campus so I had no way of cooking my own food. Visits back to the farm were reserved for holidays and I always made sure to let the family and especially grandpa know I was coming home. It became tradition for him to thaw out the goulash meat whenever he knew I was back for a visit and so eventually I never even had to tell him I was coming. Coming home and goulash became synonymous. When I finally had a kitchen of my own, I received a family cookbook of recipes lovingly gathered by my Aunt Mary Jean. Most of the recipes are of German origin and include family favourites from her side of the family and of my Uncle Glen’s side. So, yes, it included Herzog Goulash. Over the years there have been a couple of failed attempts and many triumphs but mostly now I have the recipe down to an art. When we were homesick and living in Australia I found kangaroo meat one day at the shop and just had to have a go at making kangaroo goulash. I called grandpa and he was quite tickled, though if you’ve met my grandpa you would know he is a man that does not get ‘tickled’. Maybe impressed is more like it. Anyway the kangaroo goulash was a bit hit, though if I am really being honest it only made us more homesick.
The goulash was exactly as I had hoped it would be. Just enough garlic and tomato flavour and the meat just fell apart in our mouths. It is usually served with rice but I guess probably back in the day there would have been home made noodles or mashed potatoes involved. It was a great ‘welcome to my home’ dish…a little too welcoming because everyone was tired we all shoved off to bed with full tummies. We still had a whole weekend left for visiting…yay!!
Our family favourite goulash recipe here. I’ve only just joined the Canadian Food Experience Project and for me it was only natural to share Herzog Goulash with you as my most Cherished Canadian Recipe.
The Canadian Food Experience Project began on June 7 2013. As we (participants) share our collective stories through our regional food experiences, we hope to bring global clarity to our Canadian culinary identity.