Goulash, Grandparents, and Regret

Last night I attempted cooking, which in and of itself is a feat.  I can honestly say, of the things I have been complimented, cooking is not one of them.  There are people who are renowned simply for being a good cook.  If their name comes up in conversation, people’s eyes roll back in their heads as they utter the words, “oh, she’s a good cook, Have you ever tried her carrot cake, she can make the best homemade rolls I’ve ever tasted.”  Etcetera, etcetera. Blah, blah.

Not me.  Okay.  It’s not something I’ve ever learned to do or really enjoyed doing.

Last night, my little drummer boy husband grabbed his drumsticks and headed out to play a  gig, so it was just me and my niece Ashlynn at home. 

I wanted goulash.  J-Dub doesn’t like goulash, but I love it.  Mind you, I’ve only ever had one person’s goulash in my entire life, and that was my grandmother’s.  If she ever used recipes for cooking, I haven’t the foggiest as to where to locate those.  So when I searched the internet for recipes similar to her goulash, I was met with an assortment of crap.  Crap, I tell you. 

Obviously, goulash is a Hungarian dish, not a southern poor man’s dish as I always thought.  The  recipes called for ingredients that I’m sure my Grannie never had in her pantry at any time, like Rotel for instance.

So I text my sister, and she immediately texts back with a bunch of rigmarole ingredients for so-called “Grannie’s Goulash”. 

I had an idea that she was crazy.  Mustard really?  So I called my Aunt Bert (my Grannie’s daughter).  She thought it was a little this, and a little that, and maybe some of this. 

Well that seemed closer, but it just wasn’t good enough for me.  I need a recipe!!!  I need to know how much of this and that. I operate in teaspoons and tablespoons, people.

I returned to the internet, and googled Southern goulash.  Recipes popped up with okra in them.   Who in the world puts okra in their goulash???? Huh?  Huh?  Just answer me that.   Next I googled Old-fashioned goulash.    Marjoram and tomato soup?  Puh-lease!!! 

Then when my frustrations were at an all time high, and my stomach was growling, I got the crazy notion to google my grandmother’s name and goulash.  Just hoping maybe, just maybe, someone had published a long-lost recipe of her goulash. 

And to my surprise, that brought up absolutely nothing. 

Except it led me to an ancestry site. 

So my search for goulash took an unexpected turn to ancestry on my mother’s side.    And I’m fascinated.  I’ve never given much thought to my ancestors, but now that I’m getting older, my brain is changing, along with my priorities, and I’m understanding  the impact of my lineage. 

Growing up, I didn’t have a lot of “old” family.  There are people my same age, who grew up with a great-grandmother, a great-great grandmother even, but not me.  I’ve only ever had grandmothers.  My great grandparents died before I came into this world, and I never even knew a grandfather.  Sad huh?  I guess my people died young, or procreated old, and too many years are in-between.

I’ve heard my Grannie talk about her parents, but I’d forgotten their names until last night when they started showing up on my computer screen.  Suddenly they became real people, with dreams, and love for one another, and hopes, and journeys, and trials. 

Just like me. 

Now I wish when I sat in the TV room with my Grannie,  while she rattled on with stories I’d heard before, about people who were cold in the ground, with events that were unimportant to my teenage ears, that instead of slumping over in my chair and wishing she’d stop droning on, that I’d had a cell phone with voice recorder, a video recorder,  a tape recorder, shoot even a pencil and pad and would have written down her stories.  But of course, I never thought they’d matter to me. 

How foolish we are in our youth.

Since I’ve begun blogging, I’ve been forced to dip into my memory banks.  Often I find them empty or half erased, and I must fill them in with how I believe it must have been.  Was I wearing tennis shoes in that blizzard, or were they high heeled show girl boots like my dad remembers? 

I have stories to tell, people to remember, events to unfold.  Other people may not care about them, but I do.

“You and your husband might have looked out the same kitchen window for twenty years, your eyes might be as green as  your uncle Harry’s, but twenty bucks says you don’t see the world as they do.  Start writing to save your life.  Stories only happen to those who can tell them.”—-Lou Willett Stanek



And then others must remember them, and in turn, tell them.

My great -grandfather Eugene “Gene” Ira married my great-grandmother Emma Olive (oh my gosh I love that name) and had 2 daughters, Mary and Imogene, my grandmother. 

I want to talk to those people.  I want to talk to them real bad.  I imagine their black and white faces, their frumpy clothes, their aprons, their weathered hands.  They were tough.  They had to be. I want to hear their stories, and share their stories.  It’s like instantly, I realize I am on this earth, in part because of these people. 

They are MY people.  

My great-grandparents:

Eugene “Gene”  Ira: Aug 22, 1883-Jan 15, 1966  Age. 81

Emma Olive:  Dec 7, 1879- Aug 7, 1911 Age 32

My grandmother Imogene, whose name came from her dad Gene and her mom Emma loved me, cherished me, delighted in me and made the best goulash of which I can not recreate.

And me?

I’ve forgotten her stories.

 Stories only happen to those who can tell them.


  1. Jolea says:

    There is mustard in that goulash, dang it! It’s just a squirt, but it’s in there….Don’t doubt your older, wiser sister….

    Call me later. I have a membership to ancestry.com and you can search to your hearts content!


  2. bob briggs says:

    angel, i can commesrate with you, because i didn’t kno my grandfathers either. i think we would have been great friends. but, alas, they died young. i miss not hearing stories and getting advice from them. however misplaced the advice may have been. i like to think i would have made them proud, although the direction my life has taken, i’m sure i would have elicited more prayers then they couldv’e said grace over. hahehe.. that’s funny, i don’t care who you are,

    the boots were grey , suede with spiked heels.


  3. Beth Casas says:

    I LOVE the stories you DO remember and I, like you, wish I knew the stories of my grandparents and great grandparents. They had to be tough and, since ive NEVER heard a single story about a single “rich” relative, they must have all been resourceful and determined! Someone had the idea once to begin tape recording my own grandmother’s “story” but, as flighty as we all are (must be a family trait), it was only a single session. I personally decided to record my dads life story, but, well, you know the rest….just one day. Lol! But we CAN start with our own parents, if they are still with us, so that our childrens childrens children don’t have to wonder!! The stories I DO know are pretty amazing! Keep telling us your stories, angel, because if I was a betting woman, and sometimes I am, they are quite similar to our stories because we have quite a few things in common–being that we are “country folk”! Love ya girl!
    P.S. Oh how I wish I could see you in those boots!! 🙂


  4. Michelle says:

    Angel, Dustin & I did research on ancestory.com on your side of the family and I still have it listed. On one side of Mamaw’s family we traced it back to the wee birth days of America and back to England. If you want I can give you the information. It’s very interesting.


  5. RB says:

    Did you ever make the goulash?
    Joelea , it did not have mustard in it, that was the spoon burgers had mustard. Check with anne about the goulash. Angel love the stories. We had mother talk into a recorder but do not know who has the tapes. Need to find them. Someone took them to make copies and I don’t know who.


  6. Jay says:

    I remember being a kid and going to Panhandle on Sundays and visiting Pop’s mom, I think? She was in the nursing home there and she didn’t have much to say. How foolish we are in our youth!!!


  7. I am one of those people who grew up with great-grandparents, and great great-grandparents. I guess I was a weird kid, because I loved spending time with them and listening to their stories. I learned at a very early age that our family had played an important part in the history of the county where I grew up, and I was very proud of that.

    One of the gratest gifts that my Granny gave me were her memories. One summer she wanted me to organize her pictures for her. We sat for hours and hours sorting through pile after pile of old black and white photos. She told me the story behind every single one. She is gone now, and I treasure those stories, Like the Judds song says,

    “I may not know where I’m going, but I know where I come from.”


  8. jeanne says:

    angel, i too just recently purchased a membership to ancestry.com and have looked up all of my grandparents on both mom and dad’s side. i will print them off and send it to you, or i can email it to you if you want. i don’t have your email address though. i did this for my grandkids mainly. we miss so much. i love to hear mom’s stories of her childhood and people she knew back then. i love the story that her mom told her (grannie calico told mom) that when she was a girl in tahlequah, that pretty boy floyd hid out at her house for a day or so. interesting stuff. too bad we’ve been too foolish in our youth to really listen to our ancestors.


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