Mandy Eve-Barnett's Blog for Readers & Writers

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If You Don’t Ask, You Don’t Get – Find Authentic Research Sources…

September 29, 2014

articlesResearch is a vital component of many of our narrative’s and we endeavor to ensure the technicalities are exact. This is especially true when we are writing about something we have no personal knowledge of. The internet, can give us some information but we should not rely on it 100% – there have been cases of mis-information.

Say we require a character to be fighter pilot, as it is unlikely we can find or have personal experiences of this, we could try search engines but it may be limited. We must then delve into the history books and hopefully find people, who are willing to assist us in gathering as much information as possible to make the character come alive on paper.

My current word in progress, Willow Tree Tears, has a barrel racer as a central character. As I have only attended one small rodeo and, although I have ridden horses, I’ve never competed on one, I required first hand experience. Luckily, the internet is a great resource for finding people and organizations and so I was able to read descriptions and view photographs of rodeo’s to give me an idea of how the venue would look and sound. I also intend to attend a rodeo before the manuscript is finalized so I can make further authentic revisions.

barrel silhouttee

However, in the meantime I really wanted a champion barrel racer to read the relevant sections of my story to approve the authenticity of them. So I sent out several requests via facebook and through personal websites to several barrel racers – graciously two replied and are reviewing the segments for me. I will thank them both by naming them in the finished novel and giving each of them a copy to review. (May be I will actually see them compete!)

We need to go that extra mile to ensure our readers – with or without knowledge of the subject matter – are confident we have written a true reflection of the particular subject in our novels. We can’t have a cell phone in 1650 or hovering cars in 2000, so it is true with the careers our characters have – no matter what century they are set in.


What have you researched for a novel?
Why did you pick that particular career/venue/organization?

Words and Stew…?

February 24, 2013

Goulash – definition: a beef stew with onion, paprika, and caraway

An inspiring meal idea for today – in Alberta we are still in winter mode and although it is ‘warm’ today only -1, a hot bowl of goulash will certainly hit the spot. Alberta prides itself on its beef so how better to prepare it than a hearty stew? I admit to being a lazy cook, if I can get away with a simple quick meal I will. Thank goodness for Jamie Oliver’s 15-minute meal ideas.  He is such a character to watch and as expats living here in western Canada, we love to hear his English slang and love his grub. Having to explain what a slang word or saying actually means takes the fun out of it somewhat.


Many people know about the Cockney rhyming slang but there is a whole realm of slang in England. Each region not only has its own accent but slang as well. For instance in the north of England they say any road instead of anyway. Commonly used words are Baccy for tobacco and bees knees meaning fabulous while brill is short for brilliant. A lotta bottle means you have no fear and to have a butchers means take a look. Some words are unclear as to their originals like faff, which means to dither or grem for spitting something out.  Grub by the way is food, if you hadn’t figured it out yet.

When we had only been living in Canada for about six months we bought an acreage and I had to figure out what frequency we needed water to be delivered to our acreage. After a few weeks it became clear and I left a message on the water carriers answer phone. Several days passed without a return call and I was getting anxious. Then one evening I came home to a very apologetic answer machine message saying sorry they have taken so long to get back to us but they didn’t know what a fortnight was! Well for us it was very funny and we kept the message on the phone for weeks just for the laugh. A fortnight is actually a 2-week period!

To authenticate our characters the use of local colloquialisms from the region the story is set in enhances them. Although it is best not to overuse them, a reader doesn’t want to spend time trying to figure out what a word means, it halts the flow of the story. If a sentence is structured well the slang word’s meaning will be made apparent by its use. Another way to ensure your reader does not stall is to make up a glossary for reference. A word here and there gives depth to our character and makes them more personable.  Attention to detail makes all the difference – bringing your novel alive.

So back to the goulash – here is a classic recipe from Hungary. ( Even in Hungary every other housewife or chef has their own way of cooking it by adding or omitting some of the ingredients, or changing something in the preparation process, however they would all call their gulyás the most authentic.


 What’s Authentic Hungarian Goulash?Authentic gulyás is a beef dish cooked with onions, Hungarian paprika powder, tomatoes and some green pepper.Potato and noodles (csipetke in Hungarian) are also added according to some recipes.Hungarian goulash is neither a soup nor a stew, it’s somewhere in between. Though in Hungary it’s considered rather to be a soup than a stew, so look for it among Soups on restaurant menus.If cooked in the proper way goulash has a nice and evenly thick consistency, almost like a sauce. In Hungary gulyás is eaten as a main dish; noodle or pastry dishes, especially the ones made with cottage cheese (túrós csúsza, túrógombóc, strudel) go down well after the heavy soup.  

A Classical Hungarian Goulash Recipe

Ingredients (for 4 persons)

  • 600      g beef shin or shoulder, or any tender part of the beef cut into 2×2 cm      cubes
  • 2      tablespoons oil or lard
  • 2      medium onions, chopped
  • 2      cloves of garlic
  • 1-2      carrots, diced
  • 1      parsnip, diced
  • 1-2      celery leaves
  • 2      medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped, or 1 tbs. tomato paste
  • 2      fresh green peppers
  • 2-3      medium potatoes, sliced
  • 1      tablespoon Hungarian paprika powder
  • 1      teaspoon ground caraway seed
  • 1      bay leaf
  • ground      black pepper and salt according to taste
  • water     

For csipetke
(Pinched noodles added to goulash or bean soup in Hungary. Csipetke comes from the word csípni, meaning pinch in English, referring to the way of making this noodle):

  • 1      small egg,
  • flour,
  • a      pinch of salt,
  • cc.      1 teaspoon water

Goulash is hearty enough without csipetke, especially if you eat it with bread, so you can leave csipetke out.


  1. Heat up the oil or lard in a pot      and braise the chopped onions in it until they get a nice      golden brown colour.
  2. Sprinkle      the braised onions with paprika powder while stirring them to      prevent the paprika from burning.
  3. Add      the beef cubes and and sauté them till they turn white and      get a bit of brownish colour as well.
  4. The      meat will probably let out its own juice, let the beef-cubes simmer      in it while adding the grated or crushed and chopped garlic (grated      garlic has stronger flavour), the ground caraway seed, some salt      and ground black pepper, the bay leaf, pour water enough to      cover the content of the pan and let it simmer on low heat for a while.
  5. When      the meat is half-cooked (approx. in 1,5 hour, but it can take      longer depending on the type and quality of the beef) add the diced carrots,      parsnip and the potatoes, the celery leaf and some      more salt if necessary (vegetables tend to call for more salt).      You’ll probably have to add some more (2-3 cups) water too.
  6. When      the vegetables and the meat are almost done add the tomato      cubes and the sliced green peppers. Let it cook on low heat for      another few minutes. You can remove the lid of the pan if you want the      soup to thicken.
  7. Bring      the soup to the boil and add the csipetke dough, it needs      about 5 minutes to get cooked.How to make the csipetke: beat up a small egg, add a pinch of salt and as much flour as you need to knead a stiff dough (you can add some water if necessary).Flatten the dough between your palms (to about 1 cm thick) and pinch small, bean-sized pieces from it and add them to the boiling soup. They need about 5 minutes to get cooked.

Now you are craving goulash, I’m off to buy the ingredients.

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