I blogged with Rike today on her wonderful blog Nieselpriem. It’s about “The Christmas Goulash” and it’s not just a recipe. I tell my story about the recipe. It is bittersweet and is about love, childhood Christmas and a special person with whom I associate all this and who unfortunately no longer lives. My aunt Rita, her smoky laughter, her childlike mind. I hope you have a lot of fun reading!
The Christmas Goulash
Christmas is different for each of us, possibly. For example, every year “the spirit of the past Christmas” creeps up on me, and I think of so many Christmas celebrations of my childhood, of the people associated with it. And then I have a vivid picture before my eyes, bittersweet, of farewells. Sonja hits with her words exactly my Christmas nerve and I am very happy about her story and at the same time I am honoured and touched that she shares it here with us.
The Rike invited me to join them and I am really happy about it. It’s not a funny story, although I have to smile quietly when I think of the story.
Goulash and Christmas
For me, goulash and Christmas are inextricably linked.
Although there was something else at home in between, like turkey, salmon or roast beef. Nothing complicated, rather so hearty and easy to prepare homemade food was made by my mother on Christmas Eve. Potato salad with sausages was too boring for her, she didn’t want to be in the kitchen forever. So roast with dumplings and red cabbage. I still love it today, once a year.
But if I think of the combination of Christmas and goulash, I have to think of my aunt Rita. She was my mother’s older sister. Was, because she hasn’t lived for a long time. I loved her very much as a child, as a teenager, as a twenty-year-old. Actually, I still love her today. Love doesn’t stop just because someone is no longer alive.
Rita was a picture-book aunt to me.
Rita was a picture book aunt: funny, rough, vulnerable. She could laugh loudly and sing smokily and had a childlike mind despite or probably because of her difficult life. Rita loved being happy and celebrating and being together. In addition there was her special sarcastic humor, which is not black, but rather hard as a leg honest and so funny that every time it ripped me out of my armchair with laughter.
Rita had this special gift of not whitewashing us children sweetly, but rather as she herself found it funny and entertaining. I think the first memory of her special humor was when, as a little girl, I looked at a magazine with her and my mother. In the photo of an older man I said out loud: He looks like shit!” “NA” made my mother admonish. My mother was outraged by my language, but she couldn’t breathe. We didn’t talk like that at home, not even as a joke! At least not at this age. Rita looked at the photo, shook her head, and said calmly and very seriously, “Nah, he doesn’t look like shit. Then he would be brown.” – Silence. – Screaming laughter from the three of us!
With Rita there was always a special shine in the hut
When I think of her today or write about her now, there is this special warmth in my heart.
We always celebrated Christmas together with Rita and her son. My cousin was exactly between me and my brother. We played a lot and had a good time. At Christmas there was loud singing and laughter. Rita was one of those adults, who also has a childlike excitement and joy at Christmas, and who can be happy with every gift, especially with the gifts of the children.
In one year Rita wanted to celebrate at home alone with her new husband and son. I was a little older, about 14 or 15 years old. I knew I had to accept that, but I thought it was stupid. The day before we met for Christmas coffee. We ate cake together, laughed and played. My brother and cousin played a flute piece, recited a poem. Early in the evening Rita and her little family set off. Before that, my mother and I filled her a small pot with some of the venison goulash we had cooked together. It would be enough for the three of them and we had so much goulash that we could eat it. At Christmas the pots don’t have to be emptied so quickly. But then you have something of it until New Year’s Eve. That’s how it belongs.
Then Christmas Eve came and we would celebrate Christmas again with four people. The last time we were four was when I must have been 4 or 5 years old. We had it nice at home, my mother is a master in decorating. A talent that I only noticed in the approach, if at all. When my mother makes it Christmassy, then it cracks, that’s how Christmassy it is. So I can’t say I was completely heartbroken to spend Christmas Eve with my nuclear family. The four of us liked to be together. We read Christmas stories and ate cakes. My mother never liked cookies either.
Eventually, when it was dark on Christmas Eve, my parents sent my brother and I to the room so that “the Christ Child” could come. We actually kept up the custom for a long time, no matter how old we were and whether my brother and I still believed in the Christ Child or not. That must be sent into the room and waaaaaaarten belonged to the irrevocable Christmas customs of my childhood and youth. I think my parents really stopped doing that when my brother and I moved out and came home for a visit at Christmas. I don’t remember that well.
Whatever. Anyway, my brother and I sat in our rooms and waited. Suddenly the doorbell rang. You probably guessed, there was Rita, her husband and our cousin. She held the pot of goulash in her hands. Rita shone all over her face. “We wanted to bring the goulash back to you,” she said objectively and went straight into the kitchen. My mother and I kept our mouths open for the time being. The three came in, took off their coats, Rita put the goulash in the kitchen and they sat down. And then it was Christmas.
Never again in the following years did we come up with the idea that one of the two families would want to celebrate Christmas among themselves. Not even when Rita died surprisingly and much too young in November. That was 23 years ago. I haven’t been able to celebrate Christmas with her for so many years, it’s been so long.
Meanwhile there have been many changes in the family and we no longer celebrate with my cousin and his father. But goulash and Christmas have a special connection since then. By the way, I also have the feeling of a cabin shine as soon as I think of Rita. And of her smoky laughter. When I close my eyes, I can still hear it. That doesn’t just stop, such a laugh, just because someone died.
Deer goulash – The recipe
No, I’m afraid it’s not my mother’s original recipe. She doesn’t have it. My mother doesn’t cook something like this “naturally” according to a recipe, but rather without a snout, which is why she has no records of it. I “worked out” this recipe with her when I wanted to cook venison goulash for Christmas Eve myself several years ago.
1 kilogram deer meat
250 gr shallots
2 cloves of garlic
2 sprigs thyme
2 sprigs rosemary
1-2 tablespoons tomato puree
1 tbsp flour
freshly ground pepper
1 bottle red wine (alternatively vegetable broth)
400 gr strained tomatoes
2 bay leaves
5 juniper berries
Rinse meat and pat dry. Dice shallots and carrots, finely chop garlic. Rinse lemon, dry and peel thinly.
Fry the meat until golden on all sides, remove from the pot/pan and set aside. Brown the shallots, carrots and garlic. Add tomato paste and dust with flour. Then add the meat; season with salt and pepper.
Add the red wine and the tomatoes. The meat should be covered with liquid, if necessary add some broth. Bring to the boil and then simmer on a low flame. After boiling, add the juniper berries, bay leaf and spices. Cook for at least 50 minutes until the meat is tender.
Remove the meat, reduce the sauce until creamy and season to taste with salt and pepper.