The weather is turning cooler and I’m making goulash for comfort food.
As I prepare the ingredients, I remember the first time I heard of that dish with the funny name “goulash”.
I was in the 7th grade and my dad had driven all the way up to where I lived with my mom.
It was just getting dark when he arrived. As usual, no one else was home except my sister and me.
I was so happy to see him. He didn’t often come the full way to our house. He and mom usually met half way, but this time he’d come the whole way to pick us up.
He asked if I’d eaten yet. I hadn’t. He rummaged about in the big fancy kitchen with all the best newfangled gadgets money could buy, looking for something to cook for us, he said, not much in here to work with, what do y’all usually eat?
I don’t know daddy. Whatever is there. Sometimes I sauté a can of mushrooms in butter or if there’s lunch meat, I might make a sandwich. Just whatever’s easy and available.
As he’s flipping through the plethora of cabinets and cupboards, “Your mom doesn’t cook for you?”
No, not very often. She and Jim are usually gone until around bedtime. Jim’s business is always busy, so they work a lot. We just usually cook for ourselves or eat whatever’s on hand.
He grins that big beloved grin of his. “Ohhhh, I see something with potential in here! Don’t you worry, I’ll whip up something you’ll love in a jiffy!”
What’re you gonna make daddy?
Goulash? What is that? That’s a weird word. Never heard of that before. Kinda makes me think of rain boots!
My dad laughing, “What? You’ve never had goulash? Don’t you worry, it’s gonna be good. Finish your homework and dinner will be ready in 20 minutes.”
In the living room with my school books, I kept glancing behind me into the big kitchen thinking how strange it looked to see my dad bustling about in my mom’s kitchen that my step-dad had built for her.
It felt comforting seeing him there and I was excited to have a real supper… actually cooked for me and everything. That didn’t happen often in this house.
He’d doctored up some leftover chili into goulash to stretch it to make it delicious and enough for all 3 of us.
He put onions and beans in it with pasta and tomatoes, spices, and the leftover chili.
I despised onions and was not a fan of beans, but I didn’t tell him that. I ate every single bite and gushed with praise over his magical cooking skills to transform a little bit of leftover chili into a fantastic meal.
I remember feeling so content, safe, loved, and happy as I ate my goulash, chatting with him about school and all things about being 12. I wished more than anything he lived closer.
And right in that minute, I couldn’t remember the last time someone had cooked for me. Even with the onions and beans I didn’t care for, that goulash tasted like a bowl of love itself to me.
I savored every minute and every bite.
And when I grew up to be a momma, I cooked dinner almost every night for my daughters. I fussed and fretted throughout many days about groceries and what i could fix them for dinner each night. I always wanted dinners to be a special time for them.
…because I’d never forgotten how much impromptu spontaneous goulash, even with yukky beans and onions, could taste like love.