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November 23, 2006

Green Bean Casserole

Thanksgiving is my favorite secular holiday. I love the fall weather, the turkey, and the gathering of friends and family. While some families have Thanksgiving traditions that they repeat year after year, my mom and I always took a more experimental appraoach to the holiday: turkey sandwiches, turkey pizza, tofurkey, tofu lasagna. Sometimes we even had our Thanksgiving meal in restaurants. The one constant was that we were always with people, either friends, family members, or both.

The last Thankgsiving I spent with my mom was 2001. I had been living in Ann Arbor for six months, and it would be my first trip back home. David and I had been dating for just a couple of weeks, but he gave me a Thanksgiving gift to take back to LA with me: the makings of Green Bean Casserole. Having grown up in Los Angeles, where most of our groceries came from the Santa Monica food co-op, I had never heard of Green Bean Casserole, and was quite puzzled when David gave me two cans of green beans, two cans of cream of mushroom soup, and a can of those deep-fried onions. I had no idea what to do with these ingredients but, fortunately, the recipe was on the back of one of the cans. So I put them in my suitcase and, on Thanksgiving day, I mixed it all together and stuck it in the oven, not at all sure what would come out. I had never even seen a canned green bean before!

We had several people over that year: my grandparents; my mom's boyfriend Ken and her best friend Mary Ann; my (still quite friendly) ex-boyfriend Erik and his parents, brother, and sister-in-law; and my uncle Chris, his wife Anna, and stepson G. Nobody had ever heard of Green Bean Casserole, and our guests were all very curious about this Midwestern concoction (actually, according to my Google search, GBC originated in the South). Everyone agreed that it tasted good, but we couldn't quite agree on whether or not it was actually food -- after all, what food group does cream of mushroom soup fall into?

Since 2002, I have joined David's family for Thanksgiving. After two years, however, his mom decided that she was done with the holiday, or at least with the cooking part. She had made the meal every year since she was nineteen, and formally turned it over to me. As our house is way too small to host Thanksgiving dinner, for the past two years, I went over to David's brother's house, and cooked the meal there. I had all kinds of ideas for what I would make, but David's family is one of those traditional ones, and they eat the same dishes every year. He insisted (under threat of being excommunicated from the M--- family) that I had to do it exactly as his mom had done it, which included using her turkey recipe. The first year, everything turned out very well, and everyone agreed that my turkey was the best they had ever eaten. But last year, the turkey was too big, and David's mom's recipe didn't work. The turkey came out of the oven still rather raw (I couldn't test it with a thermometer because it was wrapped in aluminum foil), but by the time we figured this out, the oven was full of other stuff, and the turkey couldn't go back in. So we microwaved it! David's family was very understanding, though, and assured me that it was still the best Thanksgiving ever.

This year, David's mom has taken the holiday back, so I am off the hook! Although cooking used to be one of my passions, I am utterly grateful that I don't have to cook today. I told her that I would bring a vegetable dish (roasted onions, carrots, turnips, and beets tossed with kale), which I made yesterday, so today I can just relax and eat! But the other day David's mom called him to tell him that his cousin Heather would be driving up from Ohio with her family and bringing Green Bean Casserole. She was afraid that I would be upset because I was already bringing a vegetable dish, and Heather's casserole would be competition. So I called her to assure her that I could really care less. To begin with, I'm just not that petty (I don't think). But, no less important, whatever Green Bean Casserole may be, it is most certainly not a vegetable dish!

Posted by eklanche at November 23, 2006 07:53 AM


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