Q: I'm writing you because I am trying to track down a story my grandmother Anna Kiefer told me when I was a young girl about how she had submitted a recipe for Hungarian goulash for a contest that the Chicago Tribune was running, and that she won the contest for the goulash. I believe the prize was a complete set of all the winning recipes, a box set of some sort, with the cards having different colors. This would have been somewhere in the 1930s or 1940s, I'm guessing. I don't have the complete set of recipe cards, but I do have the card for the goulash and a few others. She was a good cook and did make delicious goulash. I was just wondering if you could track this story down to see if it is true. I would appreciate the help.
--Arlene Jorgensen, Milwaukee, Wis.
A: I'm sorry, I could find nothing in the Tribune's archives referring to this contest or your grandmother, Anna Kiefer. That doesn't mean her story isn't true; I just can't confirm it. And, believe me, I search the archives using her married name (Anna Kiefer), her husband's name (Karl Kiefer), her maiden name (Kranjc). Then I searched for "Hungarian goulash" and "goulash" both with and without your grandmother's home city of Milwaukee because some of the early recipes are sourced simply to "a reader from Milwaukee" or a person known only by initials.
Nothing turned up -- but I did find a lot of recipes for goulash, both the Hungarian and the not-so-Hungarian. Some were made with beef, others called for veal or chicken, a few asked for kidneys and a couple had tomatoes. You had kindly sent me a snapshot of the recipe card on which you've written "Grandma Anna Kiefer's recipe. She won a contest for this." None of the goulash recipes I found in our archives seemed to have the exact combination of beef, pork, lamb, bacon and caraway your recipe called for.
The front of the card has no authorship credit; you told me in a later email there was no printing on the back. What's on the front, under the recipe, is the phrase "Chicago Tribune Recipe Register." So I went searching for that.
The only information I could find on the boxed set of recipe cards labeled "Chicago Tribune Recipe Register," was at online auction sites. One of the auction lots had a photograph of the boxed set of recipe cards with the lid open. Inside was written: "Chicago Tribune Recipe Register. 500 famous recipes indexed for quick selection. Tested and approved by the bureau of home economics of the Chicago Tribune. An essential aid for every household." No mention of a contest or reader input, at least that I could see inside the lid.
Below, I've list the Hungarian goulash recipe from the Chicago Tribune Recipe Register. What strikes me is how so many measurements are missing. I'm printing it in case the recipe jogs any memories out there, either people who made the dish or enjoyed it.
I've followed that with a Feb. 14, 1956, recipe for a "one-dish" Hungarian goulash from the Tribune's Mary Meade, the pen name for the newspaper's longtime food editor, Ruth Ellen Church. "Add a salad, rolls and desert and the diners will have more than enough,'' the story suggests.
Sorry I don't have more information for you, but may some readers can fill in the blanks. If so, contact me using the information given below.
From Chicago Tribune Recipe Register.
1 pound each beef, pork, lamb
3 slices bacon
1 large onion, minced
Salt and black pepper
Cut the onion into small squares. Cut the bacon in pieces and fry it with the onion, adding black pepper and a pinch of caraway seed. When the onion is browned, add the beef and stew for 15 minutes. Then add the pork and lamb. Cook 15 minutes longer and then add the flour smoothed in water. Season with salt, paprika and several whole allspice. Add hot water. Stew gently until meat is tender.