Thursday, May 13, 2010

Midwestern roots: embrace them or deny them?

Option A: Embrace them in lovin' spoonfuls

My mother (from Indianapolis) believes that a can of cream of mushroom soup will make a meal out of most anything.  If she's feeling fancy she might use a packet of french onion soup mix. My father (Marshalltown, Iowa) heartily agrees, and always asks for seconds.  While they elected to leave the midwest, they remained true to it's food culture.

When Mamie (we didn't know she was Bad Grandma yet) came to help us when the larger hooligan was born, she was horrified that my pantry did not contain either of these essential ingredients.  She took care of that--I think she bought us a case of each.  We gave it away when we moved.  I had a lot of pot roast and tuna casserole post partum, and it was strangely delicious, under the circumstances.

The hooligans LOVE Mamie's food.  They ask me to make it.  And while I would not wish to eat canned-soup-based meals multiple times per week (as I did growing up), I do find a nice tuna casserole to be very comforting on occasion.  I make a white sauce from scratch, though--it takes very little time.  I don't think you really need the can of soup.

Option B:  Deny Deny Deny, and learn to cook Italian, and Indian and Thai (Pass the hot sauce, please)

The Man Who Lives In My House finds these meals abhorrent.  Like my parents, his mom was a Midwestern Refugee.  For her, fresh, delicious ethnic foods full of exotic spice and flavor represented a narrow escape from a life of bland canned casseroles. When Granny came to meet the larger hooligan and help out, she made us ratatouille from scratch.  It was delicious under any circumstance.  (My Father in Law is from New Orleans, and therefore is exempt from casserole issues.  His food culture is enviable.)

The Man tells a funny story about going with his mom to visit family in Oklahoma.  The Tulsa Paper had just published a recipe for an innovative new dish:  Chili-ghetti.  That would be a can of chili mixed with a can of spaghetti sauce dumped over macaroni. EEeeuuuw!  They were served Chili-ghetti for three or four nights running, as they made the rounds visiting aunts and cousins.  If you can do an Oklahoma/North Texas accent, say out loud, "Guess what Ah made fur dinner! Chill-Lee Ghetti!!" You can see why he would prefer to repress these memories.

Man Who Lives In My House was out of town for 3 days..  The Hooligans and I enjoyed pot roast and tuna casserole.  I draw the line at Chili-ghetti.  But my guess is the Hooligans would love it.  


  1. What up Marshalltown! When we were living in Iowa we lived like 20 min from there but I grew up in southwest IA. So full-on Midwestern upbringing here. Lots of roast and casseroles, & Ragu sauce for spaghetti. I don't make too much of it as an adult but no holiday dinner is complete without green bean casserole (w/ cream of mushroom of course) and still like plain 'ole Ragu from a jar. :)

  2. Oh that casserole. It deserved a paragraph in this post. My mom would break out the durkees crunchy onion bits for the topping. She was thrifty, though. She could stretch a single canister of durkees over several years. My cousin Andrew called it, "Aunt Debbie's Vegetable Surprise!" What a card.