What is like the casserole?
Could any other dish transform tins of canned goods into a steaming meal for prairie mouths, hungry from a hard day of television viewing? Does anything match the poetry of the phrase, “Bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees. Recipe is easily doubled.” Is there another main course as picturesque or heartwarming?
Entire generations have attained greatness by feeding solely off of casserole nectar. Worlds of cream of chicken soup have bubbled and boiled over whole chicken breasts sitting atop beds of rice or sliced roast beef as the casserole’s alchemy creates dinner and a better planet.
As I browse through my cookbook, the endless casserole variation is like a never ending music.
Oh Zucchini Casserole, oh Country Corn Bake, oh Cheese Corn Bake, oh Broccoli Corn Casserole! And the tuna! Dear, sweet, God! The Tuna Casserole, with its 3 cans of Chinese noodles, 2 cans mushroom soup, 1 package of blanched almonds, 2 cans white tuna, and 1 cup of milk. Dry yourselves, my taste buds, for the dinner hour is not nigh.
The casserole gathers canned goods to its glassy bosom, accepting them for what they are as they are combined and layered and sprinkled with corn flakes. A masterpiece of non-cooking, an exercise in the art of assembly, this is Midwestern cuisine at its finest.
Would any church potluck be complete without a steaming pan of Creamy Chicken and Rice Casserole? Could the world continue to function on Monday night without a dinner of chicken enchiladas (1 cooked chicken, 1 c. shredded Taco Blend Cheese, 1 packet of Taco seasoning, Sour cream, salsa.) with its instructions to “Shred the chicken. Mix all ingredients together?”
And after being assembled into the tortillas, these proto-enchiladas will lie down on a sweet bed of glass and be smothered with equal parts enchilada sauce and cream of mushroom soup, topped with cheddar cheese in an eternal embrace that will continue deep within the digestive tract of the consumer.
In the kitchens of the Midwest, the cook’s most fearsome weapon is the 9×13 baking dish. The ammunition of choice: canned soup, cream of mushroom or chicken. With these tools, the chef is ready to face a ravenous family, to fight the devil with cheesy potatoes at a church gathering, and entertain the in-laws on the night of the big game.
When almost every ingredient is birthed from a can or a jar, when the objective of the dish is to combine it so thoroughly that one only tastes hot chicken-y, tuna-y, or beefy mush, when an complete meal can be eaten out of a mug, is there any way to go wrong?
Let the casserole state of mind cheese its way between your neurons. Let the open-and-pour mentality soothe your nerves and line your arteries. Life should be a steaming dish full of something that bubbles. It matters not what it is.