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Say no to the infamous green bean casserole

With Thanksgiving only a couple of days away, there is still time for those of you who will be in the kitchen to spare holiday diners a culinary atrocity. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO SERVE THAT GREEN BEAN CASSEROLE.

I concede the genius in marketing that has made the vile desecration of a fine vegetable with Campbell’s condensed cream of mushroom soup and French’s french-fried onions a holiday tradition and malformed the palates of generations. But you do not have to be a party to this.

You could get hold of some mushrooms and some stock and let your families taste what actual mushroom soup is like. You could cook your green beans all morning with some bacon or ham, as my mother did.* Or you could steam them until they are tender and combine them with sweet butter and lemon juice. Have your families ever experienced what green beans taste like?

Yes, you will have to contend with resistance from people at the table who think they like this bland slop and consider it an indispensable component of festivity. Be strong. If you do not educate them in the taste of real food, who will? Stand your ground. Ecrasez l’infame!


*High on the list of things you will never hear a Southerner say: “I believe you cooked those green beans too long.”


Posted by John McIntyre at 10:02 AM | | Comments (29)



Not only do we not have to serve a bean casserole that has gone green, we don't have to serve a green-bean casserole!!

Sing it!

i used to be opposed to green bean casserole, and then i had some made with all fresh ingredients, not with the processed, shortcut, icky version.

i think the green bean casserole shouldn't get the full boot -- just the canned version.

I think it's a fine dish myself, especially served cold the next day. This may be because I am no great fan of green beans as-is (and "with bacon or ham" does not count as "as-is").

Thanksgiving will be split again this year, with my daughter going to my sin-in-law's family, and my wife and I having dinner on Friday with a friend. She may be having the GBC, but we definitely won't.

I totally agree! I love green bean casserole but love it even more when everything is made from scratch, especially the onions! My brother was against my version when I told him about it but once he tried it he can't stand the canned version anymore!

I totally agree with maryann...boot the canned version and make fresh from scratch!

Hmm, John Cowan -- was "sin-in-law's family" a typo or a Freudian slip?

Skip the green beans entirely, and go for collards. Any true Southerner knows that they are the cultural comestible of choice for holidays and any days.

I like green bean casserole.

Green beans? Sure, thanks! Can I have them raw? That's what green beans are supposed to taste like.

We're spending Thanksgiving with my husband's family. Out of the 40 plus people who will be there, only two like green beans - my father-in-law and myself. We will not only greatly enjoy fresh green beans in bacon, but I will be making the canned version of green bean casserole - even adding gasp! Velveeta cheese!
I would love to have green bean casserole made from scratch, but as my mother-in-law is a gourmet cook who refuses to do anything with green beans, this is as close as I, or my father-in-law, will get (because I am most definitely not a gourmet cook).
But if anybody's offering to make me some....

I've found that the following two questions reliably detect Southerners in any crowd: (1) Do you approve of cooking green beans with bacon or ham for several hours? (2) When you bake cornbread, do you put sugar in it? (According to folksingers and fellow Tennesseans Sparky and Rhonda Rucker, Yankees' putting sugar in the cornbread was one of the leading causes of the Civil War.)

My grandmother's cornbread did not have sugar in it, but she also made what she called corn pone, backed in a Bundt pan, heavier, denser, sweeter, virtually like a pound cake made with cornmeal.

I am making it this year, and I make it year-round too. So there!

i'm a southerner, and YES cornbread should have sugar in it. it's just wrong without it.

and i approve of meat seasoning in greens/green beans ... though my family has gone "healthy" in recent years and uses smoked turkey wings instead of pork now.

In lieu of that wretched GBC or the even more vile sweet potato dish baked with marshmallows on top, I will be individually roasting a variety of fresh veggies: tiny red potatoes, chunks of sweet potatoes, a variety of bell peppers, maybe some Brussels sprouts and/or zucchini, etc. After each one is roasted and seasoned with fresh herbs, they will be combined in a colorful platter (and then each picky eater can choose exactly which veggies they like). It works for us!

My mother was a Southern woman and she never once made a green bean casserole. I dimly recall the sweet potato and marshmallow dish, but perhaps that was from my aunt or grandmother.

And she never made corn bread, but corn sticks baked in the heavy pans. Glorious. Someday I will try my hand.

I've never made the green bean casserole. For one thing, I don't care for mushrooms, so recipes using condensed cream of mushroom soup never appealed.

Green beans are a challenge because it is hard to hit the spot where the beans are tender instead of chewy or mushy and green instead of gray.

I do like a recipe I got from Cook's Illustrated for roasted green beans. They're tender and flavorful, unlike undercooked restaurant green beans, and biting into them doesn't make me feel like they're supposed to clean the tartar off my teeth in addition to providing nourishment.

GBC made from scratch is a comfort. I offer another option for green beans.

Caramelize a thinly sliced red onion. Deglaze the pan with a splash of balsamic vinegar. Add enough EVOO to achieve the viscosity of jam. Dump on warm green beans and toss.

One onion per pound of beans.

Bon appetit.

If green beans are what I would call runner beans, then steamed lightly and with a little butter and pepper they are worth a thanksgiving of their very own - but only when they are young! This seems to me a very strange time of year to be eating runner beans: in the UK, at least, they are by now great leathery beasts that would certainly need to be cooked all day and regularly pelted with tins of soup to render them edible.

SMH - that sounds heavenly!

I may have to try that as well.

Never had the green bean casserole at Thanksgiving, however, my sister-in-law makes it for the Christmas dinner. The best Christmas ever was when she was carrying the casserole to the door and dropped the dish on the sidewalk. Myself and other family members cheered silently as we picked up the shards of glass and splattered muck.

@ A. Marie, yes to both so I am not sure where that places me.

John, you are right on target. Try your steamed (whole) green beans tossed with a little olive oil, rice wine vinegar, kosher salt, and cracked black pepper. Divine!

(Of course, your suggestions are outstanding, too.)

McIntyre's comment about his grandmother's corn pone got me thinking about that term, which I've heard used in wildly different ways. A quick Google search confirms this: Corn pones vary from eggless, milkless corn meal blends that sound like what Confederate soldiers would have baked over campfires on their rifle butts in the last days of the Civil War, to "corn pone pies" with ground beef that sound frankly disgusting. The only one I can find that even faintly resembles the heavy, sweet item McIntyre described is a Guyanese recipe with rum--and perhaps rum might not always have been easy to obtain in Fleming County in the early 20th century. (Bourbon, of course, would have been another matter.)

The Google search also led me to Mark Twain's essay "Corn-Pone Opinions," with which I was previously unfamiliar ("You tell me whar a man gits his corn pone, en I'll tell you what his 'pinions is"). Splendid stuff.

Finally, my sympathies to you folks who insist on sugar in the cornbread. I recall that a few years ago, a customer at the Harlem outpost of the otherwise excellent Syracuse-based Dinosaur Bar-B-Que complained that the Dinosaur's cornbread tasted like Alpha-Bits. An apt comparison, in my opinion.

I'm with you, sort of. I object to the green beans, not the casserole. To quote Sam Krichinsky in the film "Avalon": "Never. I never eat green beans."

Amen to nixing the GBC. Ditto for the broccoli casserole of Velveeta cheese, canned soup and white rice with a trace of chopped broccoli. No wonder we Southerners are the fattest people on Earth.

Give me lightly steamed, fresh veggies with a tad of butter and herbs. Now that's food.

Hmpstd: neither a typo nor a slip, nor even an invention of my own, sin-in-law gets about 9000 Google hits.

Millicent: Collard greens? Yeccch. Not even my North-Carolina-born wife can eat 'em.

A. Marie: Another good question is: When you drink tea, do you expect it to have ice?

Picky: Runner (or French) beans they are, but realize that these are tinned, and so it's when they went into the tin, not when they come out of it, that matters. In general, though, American green beans are older than prototypical haricots verts and therefore thicker and tougher, hence the desire to cook them to extremes.

As for corn bread, when it's not sweet it's bitter, so I can do without it altogether.

My mother introduced my North Carolina godmother to French-style green beans when the latter came to visit us in Paris. Years later, when we were visiting in North Carolina, Mom and Louisa shared the story, and the latter's daughter said, "Yeah, ever since Mama got back from France, we been eating raw beans."

Ah, tinned, of course - see how civilisation has passed me by. Tinned soup, tinned beans - and these onion things are dried, packeted, no doubt?

This article made my day! Imagine thinking a green bean casserole belongs on a holiday table--esp. with those awful dried onion rings. Just thinking of it makes me want to retch. Wondering about the history behind that.

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at
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