Eating My Words: Dracula’s Chicken Paprikash for Two

In our latest installment of Eating My Words, contributor Rebecca Peters-Golden gets the blood flowing with a passionate recipe—in fact, you could say it’s got some bite. And if Rebecca’s columns stoke your fires for more literary-related discussion, I heartily recommend Crunchings and Munchings, a new young adult literature blog co-founded by Rebecca and fellow GFS contributor Tessa Barber.

I think Valentine’s Day gets a bad rap: candy, hearts, flowers—I mean, it would turn anybody’s stomach. More of a traditionalist, myself, I prefer to meditate on Saints Valentine of Terni and Valentine of Rome, martyred in the second century, or the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre, a mob murder in Prohibition-era Chicago. Good times. And, of course, it’s a quick hop from martyrs and massacres to . . . you guessed it: Vlad the Impaler, or Dracula, when he’s at home. You want romance? That’s romance. And it all starts over a modest bowl of thick, velvety Chicken Paprikash, a traditional Hungarian stew.

In Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897), hapless, well-intentioned solicitor Jonathan Harker travels to Transylvania for the first time at the behest of a new client. A client whose table manners are perfect, even if he doesn’t seem to eat. Still, Jonathan is wined and dined—and almost dined on.

chicken paprikash
Jonathan notes in his journal that eating so much paprika gives him “all sorts of queer dreams” one night, as a dog howls under his window (5). Now, I don’t know about all that, but the lovely red color makes a pink sauce that is perfect for a romantic meal à deux. Bonus for Valentine’s Day: it’s a great, strong flavor that isn’t garlic, so your breath will be safe for your date (especially if your date is a vampire). So, I wish you the best of luck for a Valentine’s Day that is a little bit less candy hearts and a little bit more delicious dinner with a date that may or may not inspire an undying passion that will last beyond the grave!

From Jonathan’s journal:

“3 May. Bistritz–Left Munich at 8.35 p.m. on 1st May, arriving at Vienna early next morning. . . . Buda-Pesth seems a wonderful place, from the glimpse which I got of it from the train and the little I could walk through the streets. . . The impression I had was that we were leaving the West and entering the East. . . I had for dinner, or rather supper, a chicken done up some way with red pepper, which was very good but thirsty. (Mem., get recipe for Mina.) I asked the waiter, and he said it was called ‘paprika hendle,’ and that as it was a national dish, I should be able to get it anywhere along the Carpathians” (3).

Oh, Jonathan, if only this recipe were all you brought back to London with you. . .

who, me?

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  1. Sarah K says

    Sounds good! My neighborhood (Sunnyside, Queens) is blessed with several Hungarian and Romanian restaurants, including one called “Transylvania–Dracula’s Place.” For some reason I always strike out by ordering the wrong thing…I think I’ll make this one at home, instead.

  2. says

    Thanks, all!
    Jamieif it’s not a family secret, I’d love to know what your mom’s recipe does differently!
    Sarah KI will absolutely have to check out TransylvaniaDracula’s Place next time I’m in NYC!