It’s very common in Slovakia to have open-air cooking competitions and parties that bring together villagers and town folk alike to enjoy traditional Slovak food, as well as have fun.
The goulash party season typically starts at the turn of April and May when the days are getting longer and the weather is warm enough for sitting outside.
Goulash is a kind of stew which originated in the old Kingdom of Hungary. Because Slovaks were part of it for almost a millennium, the dish had naturally found its way to our cuisine, and remains popular to these days.
It can take from 3 to 6 hours to cook a really good goulash, so there’s always something else happening on the site. Singing, dancing, playing the instruments of all kinds and sizes is as much part of the event as cooking.
It’s not only friends and local sports or hobby clubs that take part in these competitions. In fact, some don’t see it as a competition at all. Quite a few families come to simply enjoy a day out. It’s supposed to be fun for everyone, no matter what age.
No goulash party can be without good beer, preferably a good mix of big trade names and small brewery labels. These outdoor events are also an opportunity for local artists to show and sell their wares.There are as many goulash recipes as there are cooks, but the main ingredients will always be meat, potatoes and paprika. No two goulashes will ever look and taste the same, as the choice of meat, spices and additional vegetables can vary depending on individual tastes. Here are two goulashes I liked most at the cooking competition I went to see recently.
Teenage goulashI stopped at this cauldron because the colour and the look of the goulash immediately caught my eye. Behind it two teenage boys were sitting with their arms folded, observing the world. When prompted, they said that this was their concoction. Unlike most of other stews, this goulash didn’t have big eyes of fat floating on the surface, but a lot of small ones, which is a sign of fine greasing. I praised the cooks and they went on to tell me that cooking was their way to fight boredom. Good, I thought, if boredom can stir up such yummy creations.
Beer goulashTo make the second choice, I used my sense of smell. It drew me towards a merry bunch of men who were clearly enjoying cooking with their wives and girlfriends. The secret ingredient in their goulash was beer, and the wonderful smell I couldn’t resist may have been coming from hand-picked forest mushrooms simmering in the stew.
I had to leave before the official results of the competition were announced, but I didn’t miss anything important. It was clear that what mattered most to all the participants on this bright, sunny day was the joy of cooking and spending time in good company.