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Shun the infamous green bean casserole

So I put out a humble little list of shopworn holiday expressions that have outlived any usefulness, even in journalism, and people call me a Grinch (people are so predictable) and accuse me of thought policing. I figure they’ll start reaching for rope and looking for high tree limbs once I disparage that loathsome Thanksgiving green bean casserole.

You can see what I said a year ago, and how the public responded.

I am not a bigot.* If my mother and grandmother were still cooking green beans the whole morning with potatoes and a chunk of pork for flavoring, I would gladly tuck in. If Kathleen, my wife, were to steam them and serve them with a sprinkle of sea salt and a dash of lemon juice, they would be grand. I had them in Florida years ago battered and deep-fried. (Southerners would eat lint if it were battered and deep-fried. Come to think of it, just about any American would.)

But dousing them with Campbell’s condensed cream of mushroom soup, which looks like something that has already been though the digestive tract once, is a survival of American culinary practice better abandoned.

Thanksgiving is still nearly five days away. There is still time to save yourselves, and your families.


*With turkey, either. I’ve eaten it with the traditional chestnut, cornbread, and sausage-based dressings. I’ve had it—well, once—with sauerkraut, in the Baltimorean fashion. I’ve eaten it with mango salsa, which I still think is the best accompaniment. There is no point in being doctrinaire about turkey.



Posted by John McIntyre at 8:50 PM | | Comments (15)


"loathesome" ??

Even Homer nods, and sometimes I'm narcoleptic.

Well, I agree.

There are a few things that can be improved by condensed cream of mushroom soup, and they are all subsumed under the category of dry wall.

How about oyster dressing? You can even skip the turkey with that one.

Several years ago when the kids were still young, I floated a trial balloon over them to see whether I could deviate from the traditional Thanksgiving menu without objection. Nope. Not a chance. Traditional Turkey Day fare was - still is - demanded. My youngest even begged for green bean casserole, which I had never made previously. To not feel totally plebeian, I found a recipe so I could make it from scratch: fresh green beans, fresh mushrooms, garlic, half and half, chicken stock, etc. While it's not my proudest culinary accomplishment, it does manage to get accolades higher than "loathsome."
Perhaps even someone quoted on page 7 of today's New York Times Book Review would find it so.

The best turkey is the sandwich the next day - with cranberry sauce: no mango salsa - is that a moist-lipped poopsie Hollywood person? - need apply.

As a child growing up in post-World War II suburban America (well, Canada, to be precise), I vividly recall my mum's heavy reliance on that lumpy, grayish, viscous amalgam of goo, better known as just plain magic-in-a-can ---- Campbell's condensed cream of mush(room) soup----for many a quick mealtime casserole.

Her canned Chicken of the Sea tuna casserole w/ a generous sprinkling of crushed potato chips on top was one of mum's reliable go-to specialties. As I remember, sliced hard-boiled eggs went into the gooey mix, as well. Talk about getting our daily recommended salt requirement in one-fell-swoop. (Ugh!)

In my view, back in the day, (mid-last century America, to be exact), that trusty tin can of Campbell's condensed cream of mushroom soup w/ the distinctive white and red label, was to the workhorse, quick-to-fix, easy-bake casserole, as the amazing 'extender', Hamburger Helper, was to ground beef, whatever it's ultimate culinary 'destination'.

Prof. McI., I guess I'm w/ you re/ the most palatable mode of green bean preparation/ presentation. For traditional Thanksgiving, or for that matter, Xmas eating fare, I could do without that onetime mandatory green bean casserole slop, and opt for the more unadorned, streamed, lightly self-salt & peppered, lemon-spritzed, and buttered, pristine, fresh-cut garden-variety green beans recipe that you described so scrumptiously. A much classier, much healthier way to go than the salt, fat-laden cream-soup-goop-and-legume alternative. (Don't want to sound like a food snob here. HA)

(Interestingly, some lazy---or just plain rushed---folk keep it a simple, uncomplicated all-canned-goods affair, resorting to tinned beans, rather than fresh. Very sad, indeed. But sometimes sheer expedience rules the day in a bustling, over-crowded holiday kitchen.)

This year's Canadian Thanksgiving Day celebrations have come and gone (Oct. 10th), w/ the de rigeuer souped-up green bean casserole likely surviving on many a Canuck 'Turkey Day' menu. Old culinary traditions, and questionable eating habits die hard. Yet this one, of the many major holiday must-haves, I would frankly like to see eventually lapse into oblivion----the Dodo of white-bread North American festive culinary fare. ----R.I.P.


P.S.: Now 'green eggs and ham' is a whole other challenge.


I'm right with you on the next-day-cold-turkey-and-cranberry-sauce sandwich. Maybe a smidgen of dressing, all topped off w/ a dash of mayo, and you're pretty much good to go.(Yum!)

Frankly, I could eat cold turkey sandwiches for days-on-end, and never get tired of them. Maybe it's because we're so used to eating mainly chicken throughout the year, and turkey just has its own distinctive flavor and texture, unlike chicken, duck, goose, or even Cornish hen.

Patricia, are you a "white", or "dark" meat kind of gal? No pressure, here. Just that inquiring minds want to know. (I like both......... an ebony-and-ivory man. HA!)

My long ago dearly-departed grandma on my mum's (Fraser) side of the McCrae clan always made sure she got the 'Pope's nose'----that little pudgy , posterior heart-shape thingy of almost pure fat---- the last part of the Tom's tush to clear the farmer's fence. Needless to say, nary a table-side family feud erupted over first-dibs on that disgusting piece of fowl anatomy. "Nan, it's all yours. Enjoy!"

My mum usually opts for one of the monstrous turkey drumsticks, figuring most of us would likely eschew the network of fibrous tendons and chunky gristle associated w/ this sinewy, yet still quite meaty appendage.

I always look forward to the post-Thanksgiving Day/ Xmas turkey soup, w/ barley being my preferred 'bulk' ingredient of choice. Mum used to even add some Campbell's condensed cream of mushroom soup (the soup that would not die. HA!) to her version of homemade turkey soup. This addition created some opacity, and body to what normally would be a more broth-like, clear, thinnish concoction.

Good, nourishing, hardy stuff on a typical cold, dreary Ontario fall, or winter hunkering-down, homey kind of afternoon.


The mango salsa was an experiment one Thanksgiving by my mother-in-law, neither moist-lipped nor a poopsie, and its interesting balance of sweet, fruity, and spicy made the typically bland turkey more interesting.

Post-Thanksgiving is the second time of year when we must have bacon in the house--for the turkey and bacon sandwiches the next day. The other time of year is in the Spring, to go with shad roe, of course.

Did anyone else catch Susan Stamberg's annual presentation of Mama Stamberg's cranberry relish on NPR. I was amused by the former White House chef reading the directions in a French accent. He added his own bit--after defrosting, "zen you throw it away!"

I enjoyed your article John, but I humbly disagree with a statement that you made that seem to aim more at political correctness than accuracy. "Southerners would eat lint if it were battered and deep-fried." This statement is likely to be true, and any northern American who has lived in the south or visited the south would find this to be true. But when you said "Come to think of it, just about any American would," well i disagree with you on that. The only people up North who are that much in love with battered and deep-fried anything, come from a long line of people who were originally from the south.
That being said, I have some lint in my pocket if you get hungry.

The Gentle Reader may recall that I am involved with a girl whose views on the serial comma are rather AP; despite that, we are making this mixed relationship work, and have for the last year and a half. Now I find out that in the family gathering we will attend this Thanksgiving, her own very mother is the perpetratess of the canned-green-bean-cum-'shroom-soup casserole, yes, topped with the canned fried onions. Since I have already insulted and alienated her father when he took umbrage at a post on a social networking site which denigrated a large "conservative" radio host, I cannot spread the word about this loathsome dish. Every word you say it truth, Mr. McIntyre, and I can only hope the casserole is burned and cannot be put to table. Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Alex - I'm ever a white-meat girl for turkey. The dark meat is a little harsh for my taste. I do, however, make a mean tuna-noodle casserole without the benefit of soup, although I do occasionally add fresh, cooked mushrooms. No potato chips please - bread crumbs on top, only. It's one of my favorite 'nursery foods,' as Picky would say. Happy Feast of All Turkeys, everyone!

So I would, Patricia, and it sounds excellent. Although I would tend to say "comfort food" about a savoury dish. For me the real nursery foods are traditional English puddings. Stuff like suet pudding with syrup, jam roly-poly, plum duff, bread and butter pudding. Oh my!

Mr McIntyre: please, no more about green bean casserole. It is evidently utterly disgusting, and the memory of it from last year's discussions had only begun to fade when I found you serving it out to your readers again. Enough! No More!


Hmm........'canned-green-bean-cum-'shroom-soup casserole' FLAMBÉ sounds simply divine. Burn baby, burn! HA! ------A veritable Turkey Day 'happy accident' for us folk who simply loath the dreaded G-B-casserole.

That 'large "conservative" radio host' wouldn't happen to be the 'Mouth That Roared'---blowhard Rush Limbaugh, would it?........ he queried, rhetorically.

I'm sure the rotund Rush is a big classic green bean casserole kinda guy. (Make sure you take your Beano before hunkering down for your Thanksgiving Day repast, Rush. ILL wind from one of your larger orifices is quite sufficient, thank you.)

MichiganCityDDS, why am I suddenly conjuring up a Woody Allen-esque, awkward, tension-filled Thanksgiving Day dinner scenario for you-and-yours, w/ your description of the 'situation' w/ your lady friend's family? Hope she doesn't have a disturbed, off-his-meds, addled older brother, a la Christopher Walken, who needs a drive home after the festivities. Just sayin'.HA!

Maybe Woody Allen comes to mind because I just happen to have watched that superb American Masters PBS 'doc' on Allen, over the past two evenings. Hope several of our regular bloggers managed to catch this fine homage to such a comedic genius, and true American cultural treasure. (His serious stuff ain't exactly chopped liver, either.)

Despite all his personal travails (most, self-induced), astoundingly, Allen has written and directed a film-a-year, for the past 40 years. He would be the first to admit that most fell far short of his 'great expectations', and yet film buffs always relish the debut of Woody's latest filmic tale. Predictable Woody is not.

Still haven't seen his recent, "Midnight in Paris", which ironically is his biggest box-office grosser to date. Go figure.

Perhaps like a great French wine, he's mellowing, and getting more palatable w/ age. His parents lived well into their 90s (his dad, maybe to 100), so he's got their genes working for him. (Just stay clear of those falling anvils and grand pianos, Woody.)

As Woody might reflect, " Frankly, I could never quite picture my folks in 'jeans'. Polyester, for sure. Dad could cut quite a figure in those pastel-hued custom-tailored, one-piece jump suits. Always puzzled me why his buddy's would ask dad to check their oil. Guess they though he was some kinda grease monkey always wearing those funky, but very practical one-piecers. One of his crabbier, spiteful old friends used to call dad "Dip Stick".......... the nerve. Schmuck!"

@Patricia, I figured you might be a WHITE meat girl.

As a recently diagnosed Type-2 diabetic (no meds....yet), that tuna/ noodle casserole w/ fresh mushrooms sounds like it would work well, glycemically (?), for me----- a balance of fish protein, and pasta/ mushroom carbs. I might try that one. Couldn't hoit.

Happy Thanksgiving Day y'all, and go easy on the splurging on Black Friday.
(Do you really need that third gigantic flat-screen TV?)


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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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