Raising Children Overseas is a Little like Goulash
Contrary to popular opinion in the U.S., Hungarian Gulyás (Goulash) is not a thick sauce and meat chunks served over noodles, but rather a soup. It is a delicious soup with a paprika base rather than a tomato base that simmers for a long time and is a delicious combination of tastes. As I consider what it has been like to raise our children here in Budapest for the last seven years, I think of this traditional dish … a unique flavor that is not common in the states but is rich in flavor and spice.
When God called us to Hungary to serve in the Campus Crusade Headquarters of Eastern Europe and Russia, we thought this little adventure would last about two years, and then we would come right back to our friends and family all the more wise for having lived abroad. As we start our eighth year and look back over God’s goodness, one of the greatest areas of blessing (and, occasionally, challenge ) has been in raising our children outside of their home culture. It is a unique life that, like gulyas, is rich and full.
Three of our four children attend an international Christian high school. Although their course work is in English and in a traditional American style, their lives are blessed with diversity. Because of the draw to learn English, their classes are filled with kids from around the world: Korea, China, Russia, Romania, Slovakia, Poland, Serbia, Hungary, and others. One of my favorite things in their lives is that they are so comfortable with people who are not just like them. One day when this diversity was very apparent to me was during a Spanish class party my son had last year. As a native Texan, I was asked to bring some Tex-Mex to the party. Other children had contributed, as well. Somehow I don’t think the Korean gimbap fit the theme, but it was devoured even faster than my enchiladas!
Being only three when we moved here, our youngest daughter has become fluent in this beautifully complicated language. She is starting fourth grade in Hungarian national school and is thriving. I can’t help but rejoice in how big her world is. She sings the national anthems of two countries and can watch Disney channel in two languages! As a parent, it can be difficult as my Hungarian is just a small fraction of hers. I often misunderstand things, make embarrassing language mistakes, and nod my head like I understand when I really have no clue what someone is saying! However, we have some amazing Hungarian friends because of this inroad. We even have some women who have come to know Jesus personally. We have a glimpse of God’s heart for the nations!
We are so thankful for the mix of flavors in our lives. We are so blessed and so rich from the opportunities we have had to trust the Lord in living out of our comfort zone. We are not who we were when we left, but after some simmering, we are so grateful for the zest and spice we have gleaned from the cultures around us.
Want to make traditional Hungarian Gulyas Leves? Try the following recipe from About.com
- 2 medium onions, chopped finely
- 2 tablespoons bacon fat or vegetable oil
- 3 pounds cubed beef chuck roast
- 1 tablespoon sweet Hungarian paprika
- 4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch rounds
- 2 parsley roots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch rounds
- 1 small bunch parsley, tied with butcher’s twine
- 4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (optional)
- 1 teaspoon Vegeta seasoning (see below)
- 1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds (optional)
- 2 Hungarian wax peppers or banana wax peppers, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- Pinch hot Hungarian paprika
- Salt to taste
- In a large soup pot or Dutch oven, brown onions in bacon fat or vegetable oil over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until translucent. This will take 10 to 15 minutes. Do not let the onions brown. Salt the onions lightly to help tenderize them. Add a small amount of water, if necessary, to keep them from sticking to the pan.
- Turn the heat to high and add the meat cubes and sweet Hungarian paprika and stir constantly for about 3 minutes or until the meat has been seared on all sides. Add water to cover by an inch and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until meat is almost tender, adding water, as necessary, to keep it above the level of the meat. This can take up to 2 hours.
- Add the carrots, parsley roots, bunch of parsley, potatoes (if using), Vegeta, caraway seeds (if using), banana wax peppers, and hot paprika. Bring back to the boil, reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook until the vegetables are tender but not falling apart. Add additional water, if necessary, to keep a soup consistency. Add salt to taste.
- Serve over Hungarian csipetke or nokedli dumplings.