- Kira Brady
1 lb elbow macaroni
1 or 2 jars spaghetti sauce
1 lb hamburger meat
1 green bell pepper (optional)
2 cloves of garlic
Make sure everything is ready to go before you start cooking. Dad says it's all in the timing. So, chop your onion into whatever size pieces you'd like, and same with the garlic. Get out the other ingredients, and if you're using frozen hamburger meat, make sure it's defrosted. Fill a large pot with two quarts of water, and bring to a boil on the stove. While the water is heating up, you'll be cooking the hamburger meat. In a large frying pan, drop a spoonful or two of margarine – enough so that when it's melted, it covers the bottom of the pan. Keep the heat about medium low now. Toss in the onions and garlic. Cook them for a minute or two, then turn the heat up just a little, to medium high, and put the hamburger meat in the pan. (If you want green pepper in your goulash, now is the time to add it. Chopped up, of course.) Chop and stir the meat every minute or two, making sure that it's broken up into fairly small pieces, the onions and garlic are mixed evenly throughout, and all the meat is cooked thoroughly. If you're good, your meat and your pasta should be done at about the same time. Keep checking your pasta – you want it al dente, not soft and squishy. Drain your pasta in a colander, but don't run water over it! Dad says doing so just washes away all the starch that'll keep the pasta from sticking. Once your pasta is drained, pour it back into the pot. Now toss the cooked meat, garlic, and onions in there, too. Finally, pour a jar or two of pasta sauce into the pot, depending on your own preference. Dad says, “I like it sauce – ayyyy!” Mix all of it together, and you've got goulash. Goulash is best served in a bowl, sprinkled with a little parmesan cheese, and eaten with a spoon, so that you can scoop up every last bite.
Kira's Vegan Goulash:
This is the same as Dad's Goulash, except that you'll substitute a little bit of olive oil for the margarine, and soy protein imitation hamburger meat for the actual hamburger meat. Morningstar Farms makes a good one. The soy protein meat will cook more quickly than regular meat, so wait to start it until your pasta has already been cooking for about five minutes. Sprinkle your Vegan Goulash with VeggieParm instead of cow's milk parmesan cheese, and that's it! Oh, but no matter how delicious your Vegan Goulash is, don't try to serve it to dad. He doesn't want any of that “toe-food crap.”
“What’s for dinner?” With my stomach growling after a long swim practice, I was thrilled to see my dad in the kitchen, cooking, as I walked in the front door.
“Goulash,” he answered, using a wooden spoon to stir the contents of the large metal pot on the stove.
My top lip scrunched up around my nose, as I said, sighing, “Ugcch. That’s such a poverty meal!” Right then and there, I wanted to suck the words back into my mouth before the sound waves hit his ears.
My dad turned towards me. “What’d you say?”
“Uhhh,.. nothing. I’m going to go put my stuff away.” I tried to escape down the hallway.
“Do you have a problem with what’s for dinner? If goulash isn’t good enough for you, you don’t have to eat it.”
He’d taken my comment very seriously. And truthfully, I was embarrassed at my own attitude. “No, Dad. Goulash is fine. I just meant,.. it’s just a saying, you know?” I tried to rationalize that the term “poverty meal” was just a way of referring to a one-dish meal like goulash. He just went back to stirring. When it was done, I took my bowl of goulash into my room, and ate alone.
There is, however, some truth to the statement I made. Goulash and other dishes like (canned) ham and cabbage, macaroni and cheese and hotdogs, and tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches, are low-cost meals that can easily be prepared to feed a large family. I can’t remember where I originally heard the term “poverty meal,” but I know that it was used to refer to meals that my family often had for dinner. This was one of many cultural clues that told me, as an increasingly socially aware pre-teen, that my family was not upper class.
About a year ago, I actually saw a cookbook in Barnes and Noble that was titled “Poverty Meal Favorites.” It cost nearly twenty dollars. The irony of this both intrigued and frustrated me. It seemed too much like an abuse of obstacles facing the lower classes, to create commercial profit. Furthermore, not once in my life have I gone to bed hungry. These meals, though inexpensive and sometimes lacking full nutritional value, were still meals. Is the term “poverty meal,” then, an oxymoron? I think that many people are ignorant to true poverty, to true hunger, to starvation. The commodification of poverty and hunger by casually using terms such as “poverty meal” and “starving” blinds many to the actual condition of poverty that exists in so called “Third World” countries, as well as in our own country. Despite some hard times, my parents never failed to provide food for my sisters and myself. Being well fed is not a guarantee for all people; food is in fact a privilege. Simply being able to count on having regular meals indeed makes the term “poverty meal” a contradiction.
Though my dad quickly forgave me for my crass remark that night, it wasn’t the last time we butted heads over food-related issues. A couple of years ago, I stopped eating meat. My choice to be vegetarian was based on my own realization that I was eating the flesh of another living being; the thought of eating meat now disgusts me. I began to read literature about ethical vegetarianism, and my choice was confirmed as I learned about the severe cruelty to animals, pollution and abuse of the environment, and the gross consumption of products by Americans while people in other countries starved. My dad, however, saw my vegetarian diet as me going along with a popular fad, and thought that I was being wasteful by not eating the meat that other people would be so grateful for. He gradually grew to accept my choice. He still complains, however, about the fact that much of the food I now eat is very expensive. I do sometimes feel guilty about spending five dollars for a single package of soy protein product, when I could buy enough hamburger to feed my whole family with the same amount of money. However, I shop as frugally as possible, and explain to my dad that if the majority of people in America maintained vegetarian diets, the meat and dairy industries could no longer be such driving forces in our economy. Then, if the land used to graze cattle were used to grow grain, the world could be a far less hungry place. At this time though, a selective diet is clearly not an option for people who are simply trying to survive. I am privileged enough to be able to choose not to eat meat. And for the sake of a peaceful dinner table, my dad and I sometimes have to just agree to disagree.