The Case of the Green Bean Casserole Revisited

Thanksgiving is just around the corner. Will green bean casserole appear at your feast  this year? Some families are divided over politics, but ours is divided over green bean casserole. See my previous post on this topic from November of 2016.

How did green bean casserole become a Thanksgiving mainstay? I don’t think the Pilgrims hiked to their local Publix for a can of mushroom soup. And what do FRENCH fried onion rings have to do with our all-American holiday?

I discovered the original green bean casserole was created by none other than the Campbell Soup Company in 1955. During the 1950’s casseroles ruled in most suburban American kitchens. Campbell’s was inspired to create a quick and easy recipe around two ingredients that most Americans had on hand, greens beans and mushroom soup. Dorcas Reilly, a home economist who worked for Campbell’s, added the French fried onions for a festive touch. GBC became the “go to” for everyone’s Thanksgiving feast. Today, sixty-two years later, we still celebrate Dorcas Reilly’s achievement.

I decided to make things easy on myself this year and place an order for our Thanksgiving feast with my local Publix. For the record, green bean casserole can be purchased from the deli. And for those who need an alternative side, sweet potato casserole is also available. I am thankful.

 

 

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BOGO Banter

I like BOGOs.  Every Thursday morning I drop by my neighborhood Publix grocery and pick up their ad.  After lunch  I plan my weekly menu around their special promotions.  Then I check through my coupons to see if something matches a BOGO. On my shopping list, I star those items.  Before leaving for the store, I check my pantry to make sure I don’t already have two or three of any items on my list. This is a very important step. I don’t want to buy two more jars of pickle relish if I have four.  (I had to learn this the hard way!)

Once inside the store, I read the expiration dates on the BOGOs I might not use quickly. For example, mayonnaise isn’t much of a fast mover at our house. On the other hand, cookies disappear quickly.  Meats like chicken, bacon, and hot dogs can be frozen for later use. Canned goods have a long shelf life.  One product I know I will always use is Multi-Grain Cheerios. It’s a healthy, low-calorie cereal that is almost always on sale. I’m ecstatic if dog food is a BOGO. Might as well stock up for the family pet.

BOGOs encourage me to experiment with new foods. Sometimes it’s kind of scary to purchase two of something you’ve never tasted. This year I’ve been introduced to Califia Farms creamers, and Good Thins crackers. If this is a ploy to interest customers in new products, they caught me. Only once did I buy something I didn’t like, and my brother was happy to take it off my hands. In addition, some Publix brand products taste comparable to name brands. Recently I discovered the store brand healthy request soups taste comparable to Campbells.

I reached a shopping zenith during the week of Memorial Day. Between BOGOs and coupons I saved $81.09. I was absolutely giddy as I inserted my credit card into the payment kiosk.  On my way out the door I flaunted my receipt to the assistant manager. He looked surprised, but smiled and congratulated me. He probably thought I was bordering fanaticism.

I’ll admit I don’t always save as much as I did on May 28,  but I’m succeeding to hold my own as food prices rise. Some people say they pay less for food elsewhere, but do they enjoy the experience of shopping as much?  Is the store clean? Is customer service offered?  I appreciate someone ringing up and bagging my groceries. I enjoy chatting with the young people who help me load the car.  Forgive me if I sound like a commercial, but Publix has spoiled me. It’s the store where “shopping is a pleasure.”

 

 

The Case of the Green Bean Casserole

img_8118How did green bean casserole become part of our traditional Thanksgiving feast? I’m pretty sure the Pilgrims and Indians didn’t have it on their table. And what do French fried onion rings have to do with an all-American holiday?

I don’t really like green bean casserole. In the past I’ve tried to swap it out with a different vegetable dish. After all, I’m the menu planner, shopper, and cook at our house. I have rights, too. During the month of November grocery ads feature new recipes to make the perfect holiday meal. I’m usually pretty adventurous about trying new recipes, but hesitate to risk springing something new on my critics. Still, I discussed the possibility of change with my son.

“Why is green bean casserole on the chopping block?” he cried. “Can’t you get rid of something else?”

I relented. After all, the thought of disappointing my family on Thanksgiving Day over- ruled my own needs. Still, there was the additional matter of another ingredient in this dish, the mushroom soup.

My daughter hates mushrooms. For the past two Thanksgivings I modified the casserole by making it with cream of chicken soup, cheese, water chestnuts, and of course the onion rings. I did it to make her happy. Everybody had a spoonful to be polite, but as a leftover, it simply never disappeared.  I decided to call my daughter.

“Honey, the green bean casserole with mushroom soup is in high demand over here. We need to make some trade-offs this year.  Can I prepare sweet potato casserole with mini marshmallows for you?”

“Sure Mom,” she responded. “How about throwing in one of your cheese balls as an appetizer?”

“OK, no problem. See you soon.” After I hung up the phone I felt like I had just brokered a peace agreement between two countries.

My menu was taking shape. Although I purchased the turkey the week before, I still had to buy the sides. I made my list. At the top I wrote in big letters:

REMEMBER TO MAKE THINGS EASY ON YOURSELF!

After cooking thirty-five Thanksgiving meals, I know how stressful this holiday can be. I suffer from my own past successes. Achievers always feel the need to at least live up to their own expectations. Still, I am starting to tire of myself.

Before I walked out the door to Publix, my brother called.

“Anything I can do to help with the meal this year?” he asked.

“How about bringing some pre-made mashed potatoes?” I responded. “And a can of cranberry sauce.”

“You got it,” he replied.

I smiled to myself. That’s the change. I will not stand at the sink peeling potatoes this year. I am thankful for microwaves.

As we gathered around our Thanksgiving table, we gave thanks to God for our many blessings, including the green bean casserole.

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For the Love of Bread

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This summer, I returned from a two week vacation to Nova Scotia and discovered I had  gained six pounds. I complained to my husband, “Honey, I thought lobster was low in calories.”

“Not if it’s prepared in cheese sauce and served over fried potatoes,” he smiled.

Like many dieters, I decided to stop eating bread. After all, it’s those nasty carbs that make us gain weight, right? I knew saying no to bread would be a challenge for me. I routinely ate toast with peanut butter for breakfast. Even so, desperate to drop the vacation weight, I started eating oatmeal instead. Which by the way, I could only manage to consume if I heaped brown sugar on top. Over the next few days I pondered how unnatural it felt to not eat bread.

Bread is the staff of life. It has been around since the dawn of agriculture. Revolutions have occurred over the price of bread.

Bread is multicultural. Mexicans make tortillas, the French are known for baguettes, New Yorkers love bagels, and Greeks eat pita. Bread comes in all sizes, colors, and textures. It can be leavened or unleavened, and made with wheat, rye, oats, or corn.

Bread is a symbol of hospitality. According to scripture, the first Christians gathered for fellowship and the breaking of bread. Bread is so important to life it became the symbol for Christ’s body as part of the Eucharist. How can I give up something of such cultural and spiritual importance?

This morning I measured the peanut butter and enjoyed a little slice of life.

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