One of the best stories I’ve ever written contained a recipe. “The House of Nits” was a fictionalized version of one week in July when our father was away on business and our mother left to attend a cousin’s funeral in Ohio. Helen, our next-door neighbor, was asked to keep an eye on my brother and me.
I was ten years old and had just taken knitting lessons. Helen, an accomplished seamstress, had never learned knitting, so we made a deal: if I taught her how to knit, she would teach me how to sew. She was a good teacher. I have been a sewer, and a knitter, ever since.
That week we enjoyed Helen’s famous spaghetti goulash, a one-skillet dish popular in the days of the electric skillet. I’ve Googled “spaghetti goulash” and found similar recipes, but none quite like Helen’s. She used a hearty helping of chopped onion, not the sissy “one tablespoon of minced onion” that other recipes call for. And she used basic elbow macaroni instead of vermicelli. And there weren’t any mushrooms or other exotic ingredients to repel a ten-year-old, either.
Helen’s supper was tasty comfort food, something we wanted at the time, and would make a great school-night supper this time of year. Here’s the recipe from my best recollection:
Helen’s Famous Goulash
- 2 T. Crisco
- 1 lb. hamburger
- ½ cup chopped onion (dial back if you’re not into onions)
- 1 t. salt
- ½ t. garlic powder
- ¼ t. mace
- ¼ t. allspice
- ¼ t. pepper, black in a can
- 1 T. sugar
- 4 oz. dry elbow macaroni
- 8 oz. tomato sauce
- 3 ½ c. tomato juice (not V-8)
Melt Crisco in skillet at 350 degrees. Brown the hamburger; add onion and seasonings. Arrange dry macaroni in a layer over meat. Add tomato sauce with liquid. Pour tomato juice over the macaroni, making sure all is moistened. Cover tightly and simmer 30 minutes or until done. Feeds four to six.
“The House of Nits,” by the way, was published in Riverwalk Journal in 2005. That fall it was used as a text for “Introduction to Women’s Literature: Coming of Age in the U.S.” at the University of Denver.
It pays to Google yourself, too.