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The Substitute Teacher’s Speech(Recipe: American Goulash)

October 9, 2013
by Jackie Garvin

Goulash was a popular school lunchroom meal and home kitchen meal back in my day.  Ground beef was cheap, very cheap. So we ate a lot of it.

One day in 5th grade, a classmate innocently mentioned something about eating goulash and how much he liked it. Unknowingly, he struck a nerve with the substitute teacher who felt compelled to hammer into our little 10-year-old brains the difference between American Goulash and Hungarian Goulash.  Perhaps she was of Hungarian heritage. Perhaps she had just learned about both versions and longed  for a chance to share her knowledge. Whatever the reason, she seemed to drone on and on. As you might imagine, the subject matter wasn’t considered riveting by those of us who were still awake to hear the entire diatribe.

Fast forward 48 years. The substitute teacher’s speech still rings in my ears. Let me make this perfectly clear. The version I’m sharing with you today is American Goulash and doesn’t resemble, imitate, mock or replace Hungarian Goulash.

Dear Mrs. Whachamacallit,

I listened to you.



Y’all come see us!


American Goulash ~ Syrup and Biscuits


American Goulash

yield: 10 to 12 servings

A one pot meal that’s easy to put together and is great as leftovers. 

I substituted a gluten-free pasta for wheat pasta and had good results. If you want this dish totally gluten-free, read the label of your soy sauce.  Most of it contains wheat, however, gluten-free soy sauce is available.   The acidity of tomatoes in sauce tastes somewhat bitter. To offset,  I included a tablespoon of sugar. 

2 large sweet onions, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 pounds ground beef (85/15)

2 (14.5 ounce) cans diced or crushed tomatoes  (I used crushed because I had it on hand)

2 (15 ounce) cans tomato sauce

2 cups water

1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning

1 tablespoon seasoned salt (I used Morton Season-All)

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon Worcestershire

1 tablespoon sugar

2 cups macaroni pasta, dry (I used a gluten- free corn elbow pasta.  Wheat flour  elbow pasta can be  substituted.)

Add onions, garlic and ground beef to a large soup pot. Stir and cook until all the pink is gone from the meat and the onions are tender and translucent.

Add next 8  ingredients.  Stir well.

Cover and let sauce simmer 30 minutes.

Add macaroni pasta.  Cook until pasta is done.

Taste for seasoning and adjust.

You might also enjoy:

Hamburger Soup 

School House Rolls


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6 Comments leave one →
  1. October 9, 2013 6:34 pm

    That’s too funny! We used to eat a lot of “American goulash” when I was a kid, too, both at home and at school…and I loved it. In fact, earlier today I was thinking about it and thought about dipping into my “iron rations” and opening up a can of Beefaroni – not the same thing, of course, but at least a pale imitation. (I’m a old bachelor, just to explain having something like that in my pantry)

    I read a LOT of recipe blogs (enjoy yours, BTW, subscribe in my reader) and outside of the chili= beans/no beans arguments, what constitutes goulash is probably one of the next highly & hotly debated recipes I’ve seen. “American goulash” is what I will call it from now on!

    • October 9, 2013 8:02 pm


      There’s a lot of discussion about the use of bell peppers in American Goulash. Some people consider it almost treasonous to even consider it. We do have definite ideas about foods! Thanks for reading, Mike.

  2. October 10, 2013 8:53 am

    We had this when I was growing up as well. It was one of my favorite meals. My Mother also made a version with stew beef that was delicious. Since we lived in a rural area where all the relatives shared in communal gardens, we ate mostly vegetables. Goulash was a nice treat for us.

    • October 10, 2013 9:12 am


      Nothing than better than fresh picked vegetables. We still have lots of vegetable only meals at my house. As long as I have peas in my freezer, we’ll eat peas, okra and cornbread about once a week.

  3. October 11, 2013 7:02 am

    I used to love this at school. I don’t think I’ve had it since. :)

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