Almost a year ago, I was at some highfalutin event at the Morris Inn (the on campus hotel at Notre Dame) when I struck up a conversation with a bartender. She had an thick European accent and I discovered that more than 40 years prior she had immigrated from Hungary. Naturally when I heard “Hungary” I spontaneously asked her whether she had an opinion on how to make goulash. Well, indeed she did!  We began to chat about this. Then, in the course of the conversation, she dropped a bomb on me. As nicely as a sharp, terrifyingly intimidating Eastern European woman can say it, she informed me that my own mother’s goulash recipe was all wrong. It was NOT goulash.

I was stunned. Bewildered. Taken aback. What a shocking idea to consider after all these years! Now for the record, I like my mother’s goulash. A lot. Always have. This accusation of inauthenticity really had me shook.


Not knowing whether to summon the courage necessary to defend my mother’s goulash indignantly or put down my drink and run to the nearest bathroom in tears, I panicked and did what first came to mind.

I flattered her.

Yep, I responded by asking her for HER goulash recipe. She willingly obliged. Although she confused me pretty good first by her verbal instructions and then by her chicken scratch handwriting – including writing 3-4 lbs of BEETS instead of 3-4 lbs of BEEF – I eventually figured it out. Days later, I made the goulash and absolutely loved it. Unfortunately, the reception from the rest of the family was lukewarm. It was one of those moments when YOU are just totally in LOVE with something and everyone around you is yawning. Ugh.  As much as I loved the goulash, I hated being that out of sync with everyone else. But the memory of that delicious goodness haunted me. I pondered the situation for almost a year. Just last week,  I decided to make another run at it. This time, I concocted a dirty underhanded plan to get my kids to like it. In order to attain this end, I co-opted three of the kids to goulashhelp me prepare it. It’s really fun to cook with your kids and we had a great time working together. The goulash turned out even better than the first time and guess what, they liked it. They actually LIKED it! Well, at least they SAID they liked it.  And nobody was yawning. 😉

Here’s the recipe:


·        Onions (2-3 large)
·        Garlic (cloves or powder)
·        Beef (3-4 lbs)
·        Salt
·        Potatoes (as many as desired)
·        Paprika
·        Tomato juice (V8) OR fresh tomatoes and tomato paste
·        Carrots (BK’s addition – as many as desired)


1.     Cut potatoes into cubes

2.     Cut carrots into bite size

3.     Begin to boil the potatoes and carrots in 8 cups of water in a large pot

4.     Cut 3-4 beef into bite sized cubes. Season with salt and garlic or garlic powder.

5.     Cut onions into medium chunks

6.     Brown the beef and onions in a frying pan with olive oil on medium heat (be gentle on the meat – do not overcook)

7.     Add tomato juice or fresh tomatoes and can of tomato paste to the pot

8.     Add at least 1 large tablespoon of Paprika to the pot

9.     Add beef and onions to pot (simmer on low for 30 mins)

10. Add more garlic, salt and paprika as needed to suit your taste

Note: After doing a little research, I have come to learn that there is no single way to make goulash. Feel free to add, subtract and substitute anything you like. Doing so is consistent with the goulash spirit! Therefore, my mother’s own goulash has been vindicated – a happy ending indeed! Bon appetite!