The story so far: From town to town, miners keep up the momentum.
1 pound venison or sausage
1 pound rabbit meat
3 tbsp. fat or lard
1 large onion
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. paprika
1 cup chopped tomatoes
8 small peeled potatoes
Cut meat in cubes and sauté with onion in hot fat, stirring occasionally to brown evenly. Add seasonings and tomatoes. Simmer about one and a half hours or until meat is tender. Add potatoes and rice after one hour of cooking; add more tomatoes if necessary. Serve hot.
Anton went into the woods when he got back from delivering the soda pop. He returned an hour later with five rabbits. “Make a goulash,” he said to Katka. “The men, they will be hungry something terrible. Use the sausages you started this morning too, before they spoil in the heat. I’m going to Mountain Iron to find the priest to baptize the boy. I hear he’s doing a funeral there. Don’t know how long I’ll be gone and I might stay the night if he is not to be found. Where’s the Winchester?”
“There,” Katka said, pointing to the rifle resting against a shelf in the kitchen pantry.
“Keep it in your sights. I’m sure you won’t need it, but …”
“I’ll keep them safe.”
He kissed her on the cheek and left.
Katka had never cooked goulash before. Luckily, Lily had published a recipe in the last edition of the journal. She grabbed a copy from the dining room and set it on the kitchen counter. She cooked the rice and fried the sausage and fresh rabbit with the onions and paprika. She was just about to add the tomatoes when she heard the baby cry. Katka spooned three dollops of hot rice on a plate and walked up the stairs to Lily and Anton’s room. The baby was wailing. She opened the door. “Everything all right in here?”
Lily was in bed, holding her son in her lap. She had one hand on the baby’s belly, the other supported his head. His screams escaped through the wide open door of his round little mouth. Lily was looking at her son and smiling. “I gave birth to an angry goat,” Lily said.
“Sounds just so. I brought you some food.”
Lily looked at the plate of rice. “Where?”
“Here,” Katka pointed at the plate. “Rice and lard. Mrs. Sherek said to keep your meals simple. Here, let me take the baby.” Katka set the plate on Lily’s lap and took the squawking child. She made a fist and put her hand next to the baby’s mouth. The baby immediately began to suck on her knuckle and quieted down.
“How’d you do that?”
“I don’t know. There were lots of babies when I was growing up. Womenfolk were always handing them to me.”
“I don’t have any milk. I would give this baby anything in the world. And the only thing he wants, I don’t have.”
“You’ll get it. It takes a while. How are you feeling?”
“I won’t tell an untruth, Kat. Not in front of my son, for whom I must set a sterling example. Fact be known, I hurt like a son-of-a-bitch.”
“Lily!” Katka laughed and covered the baby’s ears with one hand. The child bleated again and Katka shifted him around. “You’ll feel better if you eat.”
“Make me some real food.”
Lily picked up the fork and began to shovel spoonfuls in her mouth. “At least you used lots of salt.” She ate the whole dish without stopping and handed the plate to Katka.
“You want the baby back?”
“I do. I reckon I’ll keep putting him to my teat. Sooner or later I’ll turn into a damn cow. In the meantime, why don’t you cook me up a sausage with mustard seeds and cabbage?”
“You’re impossible,” Katka said. She gave the baby back and made her way into the tavern, grabbed a glass and pulled a beer. It was a dark, malty brew. Then she chopped up a sausage into small bits, fried it with a carrot and some cilantro, and mixed it with another plate of rice. She brought them both to Katka. “Now that is closer to the tune!” Lily said. I been craving a beer something awful. And some real food.” Katka wrapped the baby in a long cloth and affixed him to her back, the way the field workers did in the old country.
“Less than a day old and he’ll already be working,” Lily said between bites.
“He’ll just be watching me work.”
“Ain’t that just like a man?”
Katka laughed. “Sleep, Teta. I got to finish the goulash. And who knows when all those men will be back here. Could get mighty loud.”
“Goulash? Bring me some of that.”
Tomorrow: Chapter 29 continues.