Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Great innovator or menace to society?

There has been much debate about whether the Manhattan Project – that created the first nuclear bomb – was ultimately a positive thing because it effectively ended a World War and perhaps staved off future ones, or was a ghastly thing because of all the fatalities it caused and the threat to world annihilation. We'll leave that to Chelsea Handler and her guests to decide. 

But that debate pales in comparison to the innovation Ms. Doris Reilly created in 1955. Doris Reilly worked in the Campbell Soup Company’s test kitchen. She wanted to concoct a dish out of the two ingredients most Americans had in their house in the 1950’s. And from that came…

The green bean casserole.

This Thursday 20,000,000 households will serve this vegetable stew, made primarily from green beans and Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup. Other ingredients include milk, canned fried onion rings, a little soy sauce, and black pepper.

Yes, growing up this was a staple of my family Thanksgivings. And I never knew why. I wonder how many people routinely serve green bean casseroles as part of their menu not really liking it but thinking it is somehow a requirement of the holiday?

Or am I just a little weird and most folks love it? Thanksgiving would not be complete without that runny casserole occupying a corner of your plate.

Perhaps the cook in your family revised the recipe… like leaving out the green beans and the mushroom soup. I could see where that might improve the holiday savory. Any suggestions are welcomed. 

But in 2002, Ms Reilly presented her original recipe card to the National Inventors Hall of Fame. So it’s right up there with the steam engine and pop tops.

She certainly is in the Campbell’s Hall of Fame. About 40% of its annual sales of cream of mushroom soup are used to make these green bean casseroles. Ms Doris Reilly – the Steve Jobs of side dishes.

Happy Thanksgiving everybody.

38 comments:

bettyd said...

Hate it! Fresh green beans that are actually GREEN is how we do it in my house.

Roger Owen Green said...

I always hated the beans. They were canned green beans, which were/are THE WORST. I liked the soup and noodle part, and would palm the beans into a napkin, if I could get away with it. Or eat around the beans and quickly help clear the table if I couldn't.

Chris Santucci said...

That's funny you mention it, Ken. I'm a trainer and we have icebreakers each morning before class commences. One of the questions of the day was--What's your favorite Thanksgiving dish? A majority said...green bean casserole!

I personally love the stuff. Love it, love it, love it! But I can understand if it's an acquired taste. You either love it or hate it. If you don't like onions or mushrooms, it can hinder your taste for the greens.

But the popularity is undeniable. I cannot really stomach other items, such as cranberry sauce. Yet, that has become a staple on every table this Thursday.

The best you can do is either A) take so many other items that no one would notice or B) take only a small scoop and give the impression that the limited dimensions of the plate necessitate such a minimal intake.

Otherwise, you can give me your share.

Happy Thanksgiving, all!

Rebecca said...

Ewwww. My grandmother made it every year at thanksgiving. We would all dutifully scoop a small portion o to our plate, and then push it around to appear as if we had eate it. I don't think any of it actually made it into anyone's mouth. Now that I have thanksgiving every year at my in-laws I notice it is the exact same tradition.

If there is one thing that united us as Americans it is pretending to enjoy that dreadful casserole on thanksgiving.

McAlvie said...

I've always thought the tradition was just an excuse to buy a can of crispy fried onion flavored thingies.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

I have never even *heard* of this dish before, and I've had a lot of Thanksgivings with a lot of different families.

wg
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

LouOCNY said...

OK - I'm one of those who actually LOVES it...although, not too much at one time! I always thought that GBC was the reason the Touch of Scent room freshener dispensers were invented, cause on Thanksgiving, after 10-20 have eaten it, you NEED it in the family bathroom.

Anonymous said...

Steve Jobs wasn't an inventor in my books, so Ms Doris Reilly easily outstrips him.

Tom Quigley said...

In our family, the tradition of serving green bean casserole always seemed to be saved for gatherings held right after someone's funeral... So we knew if a family member or relative started stocking up on Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup that something was amiss...

Mike said...

This is the perfect example of why you should always examine your traditions. Sometime within the last couple of holiday seasons, my family came to the realization that nobody really liked it and that we should stop making it. Somebody (probably my grandmother) had started making it once upon a time, so it remained a staple even now that it's just my parents and siblings (and our families). But one year, desperately shopping for canned fried onion rings which were inexplicably sold out the week before Thanksgiving*, somebody thought to ask if we really needed it -- and it turned out that we had all just been eating it to be polite.

I'm not sure why I don't like it so much -- because I'm from hearty midwestern stock and are quite familiar with the casserole as a food group. I think it's the texture of the canned green beans. Or there's not enough cheese.

* If 40% of of cream of mushroom soup's annual sales go to green bean casserole, then it must be 90% of canned fried onion rings.


Max Clarke said...

We had the green beans with macaroni and onions and a crust of stuffing. It was delicious. With that and the twice baked potatoes, I would have skipped the turkey.

Pat Reeder said...

I actually like green bean casserole, but then I am a man of plain and simple tastes (my record collection includes albums by Dennis Weaver). But my wife has more sophisticated tastes and is repulsed by it. One year, she decided to take a GBC to my family Thanksgiving that actually tasted good. She got a foodie recipe from somewhere, and sent me out on a scavenger hunt to select two big bags of perfect, fresh green beans, two pounds of mushrooms, a bottle of French wine, half-and-half, etc. etc. I had to spend another hour or so just helping her snap, clean and prepare those damn beans.

I'll admit that it actually tasted pretty good. But most of my relatives seemed to prefer the version from cans. The canned version also had the virtue of not having cost me over $30 to make.

Janice said...

I love the original green bean casserole. But keep in mind that I'm also one of the six people in the world who actually enjoys fruitcake.

YEKIMI said...

If there was ever a reason for time travel to be invented, this is it! I would go back in time and do everything in my power to make sure this dish had never been invented. But since the National Inventors Hall of Fame is in my area, I guess I could do the next best thing, go down there, find the damn recipe and burn it. I can NEVER remember a Thanksgiving where my mom didn't serve this. Since I am single and get asked to Turkey Day dinners, my first question is if they're serving green bean casserole. If they say yes, I politely decline the invitation. It's one of the most disgusting, repulsive things ever created!

Anonymous said...

Yuck. Julie

John said...

If Doris was the Steve Jobs of side dishes, shouldn't the thing have been called the iCasserole?

thomas tucker said...

@YEKIMI: maybe Steven King could write a sequel to his novel "November 22, 1963" using your suggestion. Then we can figure out how the world might be totally different had the green bean casserole never been invented.

Ron Rettig said...

Green Bean Casserole is comfort food as is Creamed Beef on Toast aka SOS or Sh-t on a Shingle to those armed forces veterans. Yes I enjoyed Mess Hall and Officers' Open Mess SOS so much so that I still have Army Times Magazine recipe for this GI fast treat.

Barry Traylor said...

The green bean casserole. Boy, do I ever hate this slop. It contains canned green beans (which I loath),canned onions (lousy tasting) and sodium soup.

Janell said...

It wouldn't be Thanksgiving without the creamy, mushroomy, oniony goodness of green bean casserole. Traditional or foodie version, it's yummy goodness.

Julie Kistler said...

We've gotten rid of the canned yams swimming in syrup with marshmallow on top (another gloopy T-Gic tradition) and the jellied cranberry thing right out of the can with the candentations still on it, but the green bean casserole remains. No noodles or soy sauce in ours, just the cream of washroom soup and canned green beans with Durkees fried onion rings on top. Eh, whatever. I don't hate it. But a fresh cranberry sauce and a nice, light whipped sweet potato are MUCH better than the old standards. MUCH!

Joseph Finn said...

"Runny"? Sounds like someone never had a proper green bean casserole with fresh green beans and noodles, one where there was far too much soup.

It's delicious.

emd9930 said...

Friday Question -

Do the writers have a master map of character quirks / family names / family stories / etc. so new additions to the character's background make sense? I've been on many TV forums where people complain that the "new" writers don't recall this or that trait of a character. The obvious one is the missing oldest son from Happy Days, but other characters have gone to college for a few shows then never talked about it again (Jamie on Mad About You and Carrie on King of Queens). One example I can think of is all the Golden Girls Rose Nylund stories from St. Olaf. How do you keep track of mentioned relatives in all those stories!

Matso Limtiaco said...

I grew up on Guam, where the green bean casserole was generally unknown by the locals. Neither my mom nor my grandmothers ever made such a concoction, and I'm fairly certain I never tried it until after I got married, twelve years after leaving GU for the Pacific NW. That said, I freely admit that I like it, and it's definitely better with fresh beans, low-sodium mushroom soup, and the canned French fried onions...

Mac said...

My guess (and I've never tried it) is that people don't like it or hate it but it brings back such fond memories of childhood thanksgiving dinners that they stick with it. Like my Granny's porridge which became a tradition every time we visited, although her porridge was always foul, so maybe that's not the best example.

XJill said...

I hate green beans so I've never touched it myself. I could eat an entire plate of my grandmas cornbread stuffing, though. YUM to my TUM as my sister would say!

Alan C said...

You'd think a recipe like this would be foolproof, but I've had good ones and dreadful ones. A woman I used to know would bring hers to every potluck and it was ghastly.

Harkaway said...

As a slight historical note, when this dish was invented, fresh green beans would not have been available in most of the USA as they were out of season. Canned green beans were as good as it got, but most people preferred fresh, so the idea of adding the other ingredients was probably to jazz up what was a pretty bland dish.

I haven't had it in thirty years, but it isn't a dish I've sought to replicate. Fresh is better, but we don't appreciate how many fewer food choices there were for many years after the second world war in most of the country.

It is also clear from reading these comments that there are lots of variations on this theme. Maybe a green bean casserole cookbook is the way forward!

Paul Duca said...

I'm sure Martin Crane loved GBC...remember the FRASIER Thanksgiving episode where he took it as an affront that Daphne didn't use a mixer to whip the potatoes to the consistency of pudding, or her cranberry didn't come from a can?

Knuckles said...

The Campbells and canned green bean crap is disgusting. I hate to admit I've watched Food Network, but Alton Brown's recipe for green bean casserole is fantastic. I make it every year, ever since I discovered it.

Cap'n Bob said...

I never ate it until I started having Thanksgiving with my second wife and her family--I was 40 by then. I don't dislike it, but there are so many other things I lke better that there's usually little or no room on the plate for GBC.

If you really wnt to gross me out, put oysters or something crunchy in the stuffing. Yucky.

Cap'n Bob said...

Oops! Here's the "a" I left out of "want," above.

a

Brian said...

I don't mind green bean casserole. My family has another dish - broccoli rice casserole made with - you guess it - Cheez Wiz!

Brian said...

Surely this little tradition pales in comparison to the Christmas Fruitcake. I read someplace they were not allowed on planes because metal detectors could not see through them.

William C Bonner said...

I love green bean casserole. I don't like foods on the table for traditional purposes. I generally wouldn't eat turkey for Thanksgiving, preferring a good prime rib or leg of lamb. Even a good ham. But I understand that turkey generally costs $0.99 a pound, while lamb costs $5, and Prime Rib costs more. If I can pack 16 people in for dinner, I want to make them all full for as cheaply as possible.

Combinatorial foods are a staple of midwest america. By thanksgiving, most of the fresh food had been harvested and stored away for the long winter.

Green beans, Soup, Onion Rings.

Potatoes, Soup, Cheese, Corn Flakes.

Tuna, Spaghetti, Soup.

Greg Ehrbar said...

Once at a gathering I was offered a mixture that was white with blobby things in it.

"What's that?" I asked the hostess.

"Heavenly Hash," she replied. "Would you like some?"

I told her I didn't think I had been good enough to deserve it.

Storm said...

My husband is a vegan (for health/allergy reasons), and I am currently taking a break from making him a special vegan version of GBC, because he misses it so much if I don't. I have to make my own "cream" of mushroom soup from scratch, using soy milk instead of regular. He eats the hell out of it, but I'll be buggered if I'll eat it myself; I'm making a small one for myself that has cream in it! I think that cooks that have theirs turn out runny (a common complaint of my fellow commenters) either used too much milk, or didn't drain the beans well enough; it should come out fairly thick. Neither of us likes cranberries, and canned yams are yucktastic, so we won't be having those, either.

This is the one day of the year that being a carnivore (mixed marriage, we're VERY progressive ;)that does ALL the cooking for both of us is a crap-ton of work for me; on a regular night, I can usually make a common dish, like a pot of pasta and veggies, then two different sauces to go with, no sweat. Tomorrow, I gotta cook a turkey breast (already cooked and ready to nuke-- thank you, Trader Joe's!) AND a Tofurkey for Himself, two batches of mashed potatoes, two batches of gravy, AND two GBCs! *whew!* But HE gets to do all the dishes!

THE TURKEYS ARE HITTING THE GROUND LIKE SACKS OF WET CEMENT!

Cheers, gobble-gobble hey!

Storm

Doktor Frank Doe said...

I once commented that it looked like the bottom of a bird cage where the bird had been on a three-day Mexican food binge. I still pretty much think that sums it up... NEXT!