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October 4, 2019 1:18 PM   Subscribe

In Mark Bittman's latest project, Heated, a culinary conflict is stewing. It started with a piece by Emily Nunn claiming that tuna noodle casserole has no place in the American comfort food canon. In defense of this esteemed hot dish, Samantha Irby responds with an appetizing retort disguised as a recipe.
posted by slogger (85 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
 
From the Irby recipe:
First you need to call your mama, ask her to leave the old Corningware baking dish she stole from your grandma on her front steps, then swing by there on your way home from the grocery store and pick it up because tuna casserole just doesn’t taste right unless it’s from a weird, faded glass dish that only old people care about.
Oh man. A while back, I went on a home cooking kick and decided to make a tuna casserole from the Joy of Cooking recipe and I literally went on eBay to get a classic Corningware casserole with the "Spice of Life" pattern just like my mom had. Somehow, it just didn't seem right to make a tuna casserole without it.
posted by mhum at 1:29 PM on October 4, 2019 [46 favorites]


So I read both the tuna casserole articles, and I enjoyed them, and I'm genuinely split on the comfort food question because my mom definitely used to make one (100% in the corning pan), and we definitely used to like it, and then we stopped liking it and she stopped making it before I was even in my teens. And it's one of those foods that when I think about it (which usually only happens at all when someone says the words "tuna casserole"), I get that warm memory you get when you think about comfort foods from your past, but with the difference that it never ever grows into anything resembling the idea that I should make one or even ask for her recipe. So yeah, I'm split.

But I will say that neither piece even mentions including French's crispy onions in their recipes, so I don't even know what they're thinking about when they say tuna casserole, so the point might be moot.
posted by Mchelly at 1:30 PM on October 4, 2019 [11 favorites]


Dangit, now I want tuna casserole for dinner and I think I'm out of everything except the tuna and the (wrong) noodles.

Harumph. Don't even have any Tuna Helper.
posted by Kyol at 1:31 PM on October 4, 2019 [1 favorite]


And right, that's another thing that I legitimately hated as a kid, couldn't stand the notion of hot tuna, even though I certainly loved tuna salad sandwiches. As an adult, it's cheap and easy and filling and not actually the worst thing I can cook for the family.
posted by Kyol at 1:34 PM on October 4, 2019 [2 favorites]


The tuna casserole I grew up eating included rice, water chestnuts, and curry powder. Irby's formulation "This is disgusting! But also, delicious? I don’t make the rules!" is just right.
posted by Flannery Culp at 1:36 PM on October 4, 2019 [4 favorites]


Fish is the only food that is worse when it smells like itself. Meaty meat is fine. Garlicky garlic is great. Fishy fish is gross.

Fish is the one thing that everyone agrees is disgusting when microwaved at work, even fish-lovers.

I understand people have nostalgia and all, but it's Emily Nunn is completely right. Fish, if good at all, is best as sushi or sashimi. Hot fish is gross.
posted by explosion at 1:36 PM on October 4, 2019 [6 favorites]


I literally went on eBay to get a classic Corningware casserole with the "Spice of Life" pattern just like my mom had. Somehow, it just didn't seem right to make a tuna casserole without it.

We were a Blue Cornflower family (though our Corelle was Spring Blossom Green). Somewhere along the way, probably when the Vancouver house got folded in with the Bear Lake stuff in the move to Prince George, my mother acquired some Spice of Life casseroles and those are the ones that have come to me, because my mother is still actively using the Blue Cornflower.

She lives in my brother's basement now, but it better be heard and understood that the Blue Cornflower is mine when my mother no longer needs it (ie, is dead) and I am not getting stuck with Spice of Life just because that's what was extra when I happened to move out of the house, no ma'am. Once a Blue Cornflower girl, always a Blue Cornflower girl.

There's a tomato mac and cheese my mother always made when I was a kid and which I cannot successfully replicate and I am convinced the problem is that Spice of Life casserole dish and if I just had access to the proper Blue Cornflower, I would be able to get it right.
posted by jacquilynne at 1:37 PM on October 4, 2019 [21 favorites]


Had Tuna Casserole earlier this week... We like to top it with crushed salt & pepper, kettle cooked potato chips (instead of the french fried onions). Delicious and comforting!
posted by Jacob G at 1:37 PM on October 4, 2019 [9 favorites]


90% of my childhood casseroles had no topping. I'd only see French's crispy onions on Green Bean Casserole and then only at Thanksgiving. The rest of the year it was Corn Flakes when someone wanted to fancy up the casserole.
posted by zinon at 1:38 PM on October 4, 2019 [2 favorites]


Internet: NOBODY LIKES THIS THING, UGH, IT'S THE WORST

Person: Oh, I like that thing.

Internet: YOU DON'T COUNT, NOBODY LIKES IT
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 1:40 PM on October 4, 2019 [38 favorites]


Just reading the words tuna casserole made me salivate. My Aunt Marcia's was divine and I'll hear nothing else about this topic, Sirrah!
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 1:47 PM on October 4, 2019 [3 favorites]


90% of my childhood casseroles had no topping. I'd only see French's crispy onions on Green Bean Casserole and then only at Thanksgiving.

We were the opposite. I don’t think my mom has made a casserole in her life, but there was always a random container of French’s crispy onions in the pantry and people would sneak in there and eat them straight from the jar.
posted by sallybrown at 1:47 PM on October 4, 2019 [7 favorites]


I wonder if ancient people had an idiom describing this phenomenon. Something latin maybe, using "gustibus" and/or "disputandum"?
posted by axiom at 1:48 PM on October 4, 2019 [4 favorites]


Sam Irby is a living treasure.
posted by ominous_paws at 1:51 PM on October 4, 2019 [13 favorites]


A couple years back I got the idea in my head to try to come up with a kicked-up version of tuna noodle casserole. I had taken a week of staycation, and wanted to do a bit of a fun cook one day. When I let Mrs. IRFH know what she had to look forward to for dinner she was, shall we say, less than enthusiastic. I honestly can't remember what all I did off the top of my head. If I remember the rules I set for myself, I think that it had to use canned tuna, rotini noodles, and peas, but that was it. Everything else was up for interpretation. It turned out really good, whatever I did, and we were both quite happy to eat it for several days. Pretty sure I wrote the recipe down somewhere. I'll post it here if I can find it easily when I get home.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:56 PM on October 4, 2019 [8 favorites]


Internet: NOBODY LIKES THIS THING, UGH, IT'S THE WORST

Person: Oh, I like that thing.

Internet: YOU DON'T COUNT, NOBODY LIKES IT


MetaFilter: *smiles chaotically*
posted by Fizz at 1:58 PM on October 4, 2019 [10 favorites]


We were poor. We had tuna noodle casserole. I hesitate to call any of the food I ate growing up "comfort food" It was survival food. Here's the food, eat and live, leave it and starve. I'd say your choice only it wasn't, the choice was eat it and avoid a beating because you will damned well eat what's put in front of you! I'm comforted by the fact that I'm an adult and I buy the groceries.
posted by evilDoug at 1:59 PM on October 4, 2019 [8 favorites]


I would just like to say that my tuna noodle casserole is fucking amazing, and the secret is to make bechamel sauce, rather than using cream of whatever soup. I love tuna noodle casserole and could happily subsist on it were it not for the risk of mercury poisoning.

Ok, now to go RTFAs.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 1:59 PM on October 4, 2019 [6 favorites]


I have fond memories of tuna noodle casserole (slightly crumbled chips on top, of course) and in honor of those memories I will avoid it in the future on the chance the author is right.

(Green bean casserole is another thing entirely and my kids insist on it for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner. Pro tip: use Chinese long beans; they're way easier to trim and retain some of their firmness through baking.)
posted by sjswitzer at 2:01 PM on October 4, 2019


We were a Blue Cornflower family (though our Corelle was Spring Blossom Green)

Wait are we doing this? Ours were Spice of Life. Long gone, though now she has Shadow Iris and I kinda want them...
posted by Mchelly at 2:02 PM on October 4, 2019


I guess there are people who wipe standing up and people who support Trump, so it would make sense that there are people who don’t like tuna casserole. But still, wtf?
posted by The World Famous at 2:04 PM on October 4, 2019 [4 favorites]


We were a Blue Cornflower family (though our Corelle was Spring Blossom Green)

#springblossomgreen4life
posted by Fizz at 2:04 PM on October 4, 2019 [1 favorite]


I think you can still hear the audible groan I made as a kid whenever my mom announced tuna noodle casserole for dinner. I’ve made it several times as an adult, using the Joy of Cooking (1993 edition) recipe and I think it’s pretty tasty.

I did like what the professor said about loyalty to the idea of casseroles and how it is like brand loyalty. It reminded me about how worked up some Mefites got recently in the thread about New Coke.

It isn’t the food, per se, but the ideas and feelings we have around the food.
posted by Big Al 8000 at 2:06 PM on October 4, 2019 [1 favorite]


We started making this a few years ago, and riff off this recipe regularly. It's pretty damn good, especially on a cold winter night. Personal take on it lately has us omitting the herbs from the panko crust, adding smoked paprika. It was more nostalgic for my wife, but we really both genuinely enjoy this dish on its own merits.

It's also really good if you accidentally forget to add the tuna. This accidental omission has lead to several "mushroom casseroles" to varying degrees of success.
posted by furnace.heart at 2:09 PM on October 4, 2019 [2 favorites]


There are a few dishes my mother didn't make, mushroom soup based things, casseroles in general, macaroni and cheese. It left me weirdly fascinated with them. I was always eager to try them when the chance arose. My brother married into a family from Minnesota, they were great for stuff like that and jello salads too.
posted by Bee'sWing at 2:14 PM on October 4, 2019 [6 favorites]


couldn't stand the notion of hot tuna
posted by Kyol


Really? Jorma Kaukonen, Jack Casady? Amazing music.
posted by Splunge at 2:17 PM on October 4, 2019 [14 favorites]


It's also really good if you accidentally forget to add the tuna. This accidental omission has lead to several "mushroom casseroles" to varying degrees of success.

Once, as a teenager, I made this because we just flat out weren't going to the grocery store to get more canned tuna, because the cost of the gas and the canned tuna was going to be too much of a splurge. Not even a fancy version of it. Just the condensed cream of mushroom soup and noodles and something on top in the oven. After that, I just stopped adding the tuna. But I'm no kind of food snob; I feel like hot tuna could work in some other context, just not this one. I'll still eat a tuna noodle casserole if someone else makes it, but really I just want creamy mushroom noodles with something crunchy on top.
posted by Sequence at 2:21 PM on October 4, 2019 [6 favorites]


Now I can't think of a dinner I want more than my mom's tuna noodle casserole. Everything required is in my kitchen tonight. Save one.
posted by Caxton1476 at 2:25 PM on October 4, 2019 [19 favorites]


I’ve never had a tuna casserole but the idea of hot tuna doesn’t sound bad. The Brazilian/Portuguese hot fish casserole dish is bacalhau assado. My mother made this on special occasions, Easter and Christmas, and it was criminal to only eat this deliciousness twice a year, but it was a time consuming and expensive dish to make.

I’m the one who introduced the one and only American casserole dish to our family. The green bean casserole. After adding in sautéed onions and an obscene amount of garlic along with cumin, this dish has been a staple at Thanksgiving and Christmas.
posted by vivzan at 3:30 PM on October 4, 2019 [3 favorites]


I have never had this .... and it sounds awful. It must be waaaaay better tasting than I imagine. I know that people love it; like marmite, it must be learned at a young age.
posted by mightshould at 3:35 PM on October 4, 2019 [3 favorites]


In our house it was called "Tuna Wiggle", likely because of the egg noodles. Not sure what was in it besides noodles, tuna, peas, and cream of mushroom soup IIRC. Still was 15-20% of my diet growing up...
posted by Windopaene at 3:52 PM on October 4, 2019


Also: Tuna is about the least fishy fish imaginable.
posted by Windopaene at 3:53 PM on October 4, 2019


Indeed. Fresh tuna steak, grilled, is more like red meat than fish.
posted by Splunge at 4:01 PM on October 4, 2019 [2 favorites]


I helped friends move the past two weekends and was paid with the contents of their freezer, which would not have kept over a multi-state-line drive, and which had several large homemade meals of the helping-the-new-parents-out-with-carbs-and-cheese variety. I have now eaten tuna noodle casserole for seven consecutive meals.

Obligatory "it's not my dad's version" (which went through several evolutions) reservations aside, it's pretty good and it has sustained me through writing two papers this week. I don't even like fish, but yeah, canned tuna is more of a meat-alternative than a fish. Lately when I make it for myself, I go heavy on the onions and sharp cheese, and add a scant dash of vinegar, which gives it more of a tuna melt taste. I've considered incorporating pickles but haven't quite gone there yet.

Our Pyrex was (is!) classic lime.
posted by notquitemaryann at 4:03 PM on October 4, 2019 [5 favorites]


Tuna is about the least fishy fish imaginable.

Must disagree. Canned albacore tuna has a very specific fishiness (which I'm OK with, but it is what it is). Tilapia, on the other hand, has very little fishiness to it.

As a born-and-bred midwesterner who's overcome fear of fish, I'd say that unfamiliarity and Fear of Bones Which Will Surely Kill You were the main issues. (I had fishermen in my family, though, and their fish were distinctly fishy.)

Unfamiliarity can be quite a thing. As much as I love eggs it took me ages to overcome my aversion to duck eggs. The very idea of it just seemed wrong. But they're fine. They're richer, yes, and chicken eggs are already rich enough. But shave in a bit of truffle and you've got a heavenly treat. (I bought an ostrich egg once and could not bring myself to cook it. Omelettes for 12! What could go wrong? But I just couldn't do it.)
posted by sjswitzer at 4:11 PM on October 4, 2019 [3 favorites]


I collect old cookbooks and have a fair number of the space-age cooking-with-cans type, so I've come across a lot of terrible-sounding recipes, but I think this tuna casserole from Better Homes & Gardens' 1967 Jiffy Cooking deserves a special award for terriblesoundingness.
posted by jocelmeow at 4:12 PM on October 4, 2019 [8 favorites]


but I think this tuna casserole from Better Homes & Gardens...

I expect to have a Baader–Meinhof moment soon. I'm not aware of ever having seen canned Mac and Cheese in my entire life but I probably will on my next trip to the grocery store.
posted by sjswitzer at 4:18 PM on October 4, 2019 [3 favorites]


Really? Jorma Kaukonen, Jack Casady? Amazing music.

FYI: Google Play Music has a whole lot of live shows from the past decade and a half.
posted by mikelieman at 4:22 PM on October 4, 2019


I talk about tuna casserole a suprising amount. Like, a lot.

This is the problem with being an ex-pat. On the one hand, I don't have to live under Trump, so yay. On the other, I do not have access to Cream of Mushroom Soup or the right egg noodles or blue flower CorningWare or Lays potato chips to crumble on top.

Also all of you can buy the Blue Flower anniversary re-release and I can't.

Also I hate you all.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:28 PM on October 4, 2019 [4 favorites]


I’m Midwestern, but my single parent was probably-undiagnosed-autistic and only liked 3 foods, and tuna wasn’t one of them, so I didn’t grow up eating the stuff. I did recognize the attitudes of The Foods of My People, culturally if not familially, in Irby’s article though.
posted by matildaben at 4:33 PM on October 4, 2019 [2 favorites]


I have never had this .... and it sounds awful. It must be waaaaay better tasting than I imagine

It's fine. It's not life changing. It's not terrible. It's food, and from an era when food was more expensive and there was a lot less variety in packaged food. I'd use precooked or leftover chicken instead of tuna (I'm fine with tuna, but the texture and flavor always disappoint me in this dish).
posted by wotsac at 4:44 PM on October 4, 2019 [1 favorite]


Am I the only one who's familial tuna casserole had cheese on top? I'm hugely allergic to fish so never ate it but my mom would make a mini casserole w/o for me with just cheese.

This might be the thread where people determine if tuna melt should exist or not.
posted by fiercekitten at 4:45 PM on October 4, 2019 [4 favorites]


I’ve never had a tuna casserole but the idea of hot tuna doesn’t sound bad. The Brazilian/Portuguese hot fish casserole dish is bacalhau assado. My mother made this on special occasions, Easter and Christmas, and it was criminal to only eat this deliciousness twice a year, but it was a time consuming and expensive dish to make.

Ok but "my family is Brazilian/Portuguese" is absolutely some sort of Konami-grade cheat code if we are talking about food with flavors in it. My family heritage is British/Icelandic, and the tuna casseroles of my lineage are barely distinguishable from unseasoned plaster.
posted by mhoye at 5:15 PM on October 4, 2019 [3 favorites]


The knives come out on the blue for the strangest things, though. God, I love this place.
posted by mhoye at 5:17 PM on October 4, 2019 [18 favorites]


I do not eat tuna casserole but Irby had me at "Ope!"

(Walked into a cabinet the other night, bruised the FUCK out of my knee, said, "Ope!" to the cabinet.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:18 PM on October 4, 2019 [5 favorites]


I'm from the Philippines. My wife was born in Ohio, but grew up in Michigan. When we moved in together, we easily fell into this division of labor where I do all of the cooking and kitchen management, and she takes care of clothes and vacuuming. She can cook but it's not her favorite thing, and has been more than happy to delegate all of the grocery shopping and food prep to me. The only exception is when I go camping, and she takes it upon herself to ensure that there's a home cooked dinner waiting when I get home. The actual meal varies, but more than half of them have been tuna casserole. From her point of view, it satisfies all of her requirements of being easy to put together, familiar, and adaptable to the unpredictable schedule of when my friends and I get back from the mountains. For me, it's exciting because I never grew up eating it, but as a Pacific Islander, any cooked fish dish is instantly comforting to me.

I also tend to default to canned tuna or ziploc Tuna Creations packets mixed with instant couscous and some olives and sundried tomatoes in olive oil as my camping dinner, so it's often the second time I've had tuna in that weekend. But given that I've now formed this association with tuna casseroles = coming home, dirty, tired, and happy and being greeted with love and longing as my wife shares with me the food of her peoples? that's all quite fine in my book.
posted by bl1nk at 5:22 PM on October 4, 2019 [48 favorites]


(Oh and blue flowers (although I only have a little b/c it was divided among the grandchildren) and springblossom green (the whole set), obviously, and here's the banged knee I apologized to the cabinet about with a hearty "Ope!")
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:30 PM on October 4, 2019 [1 favorite]


My mom is on a pretty restrictive diet (no wheat, fruit, nightshades, pepper, etc) so I try to come up with new things to cook for her when I visit. Last trip I made tuna casserole with a rice flour bechamel and the good gluten free noodles (jovial brand if you care) and I swear she almost cried.
posted by cali at 5:32 PM on October 4, 2019 [2 favorites]


1. I loves me some Tuna Noodle Casserole
2. If you can find it, T.C. Boyle wrote a short story wherein the Parisian chef on Jacques Cousteau's ship, tired of being at sea, serves the crew tuna noodle casserole in an attempt to foment a mutiny.
posted by JohnFromGR at 5:35 PM on October 4, 2019


I also audibly groaned at tuna noodle casserole. Never minded the tuna, certainly fine with noodles... I just can't stand mushrooms. Never could, still can't. And Mom would never make it with cream-of-anything-else.

I'm vegetarian now. Can't say I miss tuna, at any temperature.
posted by humbug at 5:39 PM on October 4, 2019


I made a lot of tuna casserole when I was in college, since it wasn't terribly expensive and would last a long time with one person eating it. Every once in a while I make it for myself and it's still a delight to me.

Alton Brown had a recipe for a hand-made green bean casserole that involved making your own cream of mushroom soup and french fried onion garnish. Honestly, I didn't think the results were worth the extra effort. But that was always a huge mountain to climb—it would have had to be spectacular indeed to overcome the familiarity of the canned soup variety.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 5:48 PM on October 4, 2019 [1 favorite]


Against all my better judgment I tried making this "Tuna Mayo Golden Egg Fried Rice" on the suggestion of the YouTube algorithm AND IT WAS SURPRISINGLY DELICIOUS!!!
posted by wats at 6:03 PM on October 4, 2019 [1 favorite]


One of the first recipes I ever tried to use was from a ?Cricket magazine? kids cookbook, was called “Tuna Pea Pie”, and came out as milk soup with flecks of Tuna and peas. Dinner time dismay, raillery, we consulted the recipe, it couldn’t have come out any other way.

I switched to _Mastering the Art of French Cooking_ which assumes no cookery knowledge to start and is absolutely reliable. I know I made plenty of the casseroles, and there’s a baked tuna steak recipe that looks pretty good but was probably too extravagant for us. No tuna casseroles though.
posted by clew at 6:23 PM on October 4, 2019


or Lays potato chips to crumble on top.

If you're in the UK or ROI, get some Taytos or Walkers on there!
posted by Jon Mitchell at 6:36 PM on October 4, 2019 [1 favorite]


This is very timely! I just got my payoff voucher from the class-action tuna lawsuit I joined, and you better believe I'm using it to make tuna casserole. My trick is to take it out of the oven with about 10 minutes of cook time left, sprinkle more cheese over the top, and cover it with a layer of crushed salt and vinegar chips before putting it back in to finish.
posted by Tuba Toothpaste at 6:55 PM on October 4, 2019 [5 favorites]


Let's reflect on the fact that pasta + tuna based nutrition was here long before us, and will still be here long after we are gone.
posted by haemanu at 7:01 PM on October 4, 2019


Am I the only one who's familial tuna casserole had cheese on top? I'm hugely allergic to fish so never ate it but my mom would make a mini casserole w/o for me with just cheese.

This might be the thread where people determine if tuna melt should exist or not.


Love a tuna melt; love creamed tuna on toast, which is basically béchamel with shredded cheddar and chopped onions and a can of tuna mixed in, serve on buttered toast; definitely love tuna casserole. Also happy to eat a fish pie with mashed potatoes on top. These were all special things my mom made when my dad was out of town because he didn't care for fish.
posted by oneirodynia at 7:53 PM on October 4, 2019 [1 favorite]


We were the opposite. I don’t think my mom has made a casserole in her life, but there was always a random container of French’s crispy onions in the pantry and people would sneak in there and eat them straight from the jar.

I do this too.

My stomach is where I do my mies en place.
posted by srboisvert at 8:13 PM on October 4, 2019 [8 favorites]


Fish is the one thing that everyone agrees is disgusting when microwaved at work, even fish-lovers.

It seems like the cultural blind spot on this subject has been pointed out a lot of times recently, but just to say it once again, nope, not everyone feels this way.

This is very timely! I just got my payoff voucher from the class-action tuna lawsuit I joined,

Me too. It was not as much as we were promised but since I had long since forgotten ever signing up I will enjoy my five free tuna cans.

But tuna casserole itself is an exotic and unappealing food to me. I have eaten it once that I can remember (so maybe a few other times that have disappeared into memory) and it was edible, but with tinges of what the Nunn article calls "crybaby stew" -- even at that age, I didn't find it all that appealing.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:25 PM on October 4, 2019 [1 favorite]


I miss my mom’s tuna noodle casserole, though as the years went by, it gave way to Tuna Helper, which I also liked. Seeing as my husband flat out despises the mere existence of canned tuna, does not want it anywhere near our oven, and certainly does not want leftovers staying in our fridge, I don’t anticipate ever making it for myself. But when I was in the throes of a particularly bad bout of depression and was growing tired of frozen meals, I discovered that one of those foil packets of Starkist tuna mixed into a container of Easy Mac made a passable substitute. At the very least, it got some calories in when I could barely walk to the kitchen, let alone prepare a meal or wash a dish. And, hey, it forced me to walk outside to find a trash can to throw the packaging out afterward, so it even came with a little fresh air.
posted by Meghamora at 8:49 PM on October 4, 2019 [3 favorites]


I was raised in a mentally unstable Grey Gardens-esque time capsule wherein my mother cooked out of the 1950s Betty Crocker cookbooks she'd grown up with. Which means I cooked 1950s-style (Canned everything! Organic? Screw organic! Spritz it with Roundup!) until embarrassingly late...like, until my late 20s. You know: meatloaf shaped like an animal with maraschino cherries and pineapple rounds toothpicked onto it. Bisquick everything. I made tuna casserole in the blue cornflower corningware for multiple boyfriends, because it was literally one of the only things I knew how to make. It's really embarrassing now, but families are weird and single mothers and their daughters have unique relationships.

But apparently it was one of the things that made my partner fall in love with me. He still talks about it fondly: the way I was living this midcentury life, serving food that reminded him of his grandmother. Much of our dinner fare has changed, but we still both love the tuna casserole made in the corningware dish, cream of mushroom soup and all.
posted by Miss T.Horn at 10:38 PM on October 4, 2019 [17 favorites]


My parents were born before the war, and they loved everything American, even the cookbooks. So we had casseroles. I have to say, casseroles are not a good brand if you want to inspire love of America. Nor is turkey, but that's another rant.
But you just eat your casseroles, that means there's less for me.
posted by mumimor at 2:00 AM on October 5, 2019 [4 favorites]


I am reading this thread with interest wondering if my family is alone in having a recipe for Tuna Potato chip casserole. The ingredients are simple, 2 cans tuna, 2 cans cream of mushroom, 1 can of peas and a big bag of potato chips. Pleas do not try to calculate the sodium level.
My grandmother, working mom with 5 kids, struggling widow of an alcoholic husband, made it in the forties. Then my Mom, slightly embarrased by it's cheapness, but knowing my brother and I loved it. Now me, enjoying it as quick, easy comfort food that the family will clean their plates of, but not willing to make it when my son's girlfriend is over for dinner. The recipe was improved by my husband, a chef, who suggested crushed potato chips sprinkled on top.
And now I'm hungry, and wondering if bagged potato chips were cheaper then noodles, or if Grandma was just too Irish to eat any kind of pasta.
posted by saffry at 2:44 AM on October 5, 2019 [3 favorites]


Wait one minute. I thought we were talking about tuna noodle casserole. I read the comments, then read the links in the OP

Where's the box mac and cheese? They don't use mac and cheese in their recipes...


Box mac and cheese (Ideally Kraft)
Cream of mushroom soup
Can of tuna
Can of peas
Cook macaroni, drain tuna, drain peas, mix all ingredients with hot macaroni til cheese powder dissolves, put in casserole dish and bake, or just eat from the pot.

Is that not the classic recipe?
posted by newpotato at 3:09 AM on October 5, 2019 [4 favorites]


Slight derail : I cannot stop, I tried, from sharing two of my favorites :

1) Kummerspeck : by eating food (or I even think even becoming fat) to comfort yourself, and is literally "grief bacon". which ran with the title, but not spot on.

2) "Funeral potatoes".

I'll leave it at that.
posted by epjr at 5:53 AM on October 5, 2019 [2 favorites]


BTW, the Heated site looks really nice, looking forward to exploring it.
posted by mumimor at 6:07 AM on October 5, 2019


I have also never had tuna casserole and I'm not really sure why.

But it's clearly too late to start now.
posted by aspersioncast at 6:40 AM on October 5, 2019


My friend and I worked tirelessly to perfect an upscale tuna noodle casserole, which we call "Toodle," and it's also delicious, albeit perhaps less comforting because it gilds the lily. We make it every time we're together, now only every year or two. But back in the day, we travelled together for work, often for weeks at a time, and we would make Toodle in AirBnBs and even hotel rooms thanks to what we called our "magic pot," essentially a primitive Instant Pot without the pressure feature.

We thought that restaurants would see the light and start competing on gourmet Toodle, much like they do with Mac-and-Cheese, and that we were ahead of the Next Big Trend. We were wrong about that, but still so right.
posted by carmicha at 7:06 AM on October 5, 2019 [1 favorite]


I still remember my mom’s complete astonishment when, at age 8, I actually *requested* tuna noodle casserole for dinner. It had been a regular staple of my toddlerhood and I soundly rejected it for years until she gave up. She made it for me that last time and I ate it happily and we switched our canned cream of mushroom usage to a crockpot version of “forgotten chicken” that a boyfriend later dubbed “gray chicken homogenous”. Umami fattiness over mashed potatoes, yes please.

I made tuna noodle casserole once in my 20s, from her recipe, and it tasted exactly right (which is to say, it still contained peas and tuna, two ingredients I prefer raw) and I haven’t eaten it since and will end this life having never eaten it again.
posted by annathea at 7:51 AM on October 5, 2019


I grew up Catholic when no-meat-on-Friday was still a rule, so we had this pretty regularly in the rotation with mac-n-cheese and fish sticks. I think my sister got the recipe in Home Ec class. There was no Web, grocery stores didn't have a wide variety of vegetables and ingredients, and new recipes came from magazines, or you got a recipe from somebody who brought a dish to a potluck. Campbell made Cream Of soups specifically for casseroles, because cream of celery soup is celery-flavored milk. Tuna Noodle Bake is easy, filling, cheap, pretty tasty. I make it occasionally, don't usually bother to bake it, just stove top. Tastes like Friday.
posted by theora55 at 8:42 AM on October 5, 2019 [2 favorites]


I've found the key to making tuna casserole that we both like after a hard winter's day is the same as recommended by Sam Irby: make your own sauce. Campbell's uses water, veg oils, and starch to make the sauce, and very much too much salt for our tastes (less salt means more headroom for more cheese). So back that up to the more traditional milk, and butter to add to the flour and cheese. It's so much better.

Equal portions of garlic and onion powders are magical deliciousness with cheese/umami dishes. I use about 2 tsp/10 mL each in a standard 9x13 pan. That's what makes all-dressed chips so good. A pinch of hot mustard never hurts either.

We don't use mushrooms much of the time. Tomatos work great, especially dried ones. But tuna and cheese doesn't really need the extra help. It's fine without.

Like pizza, multiple cheeses add lots of flavours. We often use a melty cheddar in the milk and a hard cheese like parmesan on top. Though gouda/hard farm cheese makes really excellent casserole too.

Good breadcrumbs are essential. Panko is fantastic if you have some.
posted by bonehead at 9:05 AM on October 5, 2019


I feel like I've wandered in from an Alternate Universe; that's not how my mother made tuna casserole! She cooked elbow macaroni, and while it was still hot, added diced green peppers, tuna and mayonnaise. I still make it; had no idea I was not making the tuna casserole we all talk about.
posted by acrasis at 9:12 AM on October 5, 2019


new recipes came from magazines, or you got a recipe from somebody who brought a dish to a potluck

Or from the very cans and boxes that contained their ingredients!
posted by Daily Alice at 9:40 AM on October 5, 2019 [2 favorites]


This week the kid requested tater tot hotdish and I can confirm that making the sauce from scratch is so much better than using a can of cream of whatever. The filling would have been better as pot pie in a regular crust (despite 30+ years in MN I don't get TTHD and had never made one before this) but was still pretty great... and you could easily use tuna instead of chicken, to re-rail the discussion.
posted by Flannery Culp at 9:52 AM on October 5, 2019 [1 favorite]


My Aunt Betty Lou made the tuna noodle thing that everyone would eat, and I discovered the secret to why there was no tuna stank: she added two tablespoons of real Sherry to the bechamel, and that smelled divine when she pulled it out of the oven. It had a good taste to it, too.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 9:55 AM on October 5, 2019 [2 favorites]


My family might be the only one in the world who a) don't put peas in tuna noodles and b) doesn't put a crunchy topping on them. The noodles get all crunchy from being in the oven. And cheese? I knew about the peas and potato chips, but not cheese.

I am also Catholic, so I grew up with meat free Fridays in Lent. My Dad, brother and I still do that. Tuna noodles appears at least a couple times along with tuna on toast (which is pretty much tuna noodles without the noodles with some chopped hard boiled eggs in it ladeled over toast).

We have the blue flower Corningware. But lately, we make in a 9x13 pan to get more of those crunchy noodle tops.

And we now use the foil packets of Starkist tuna. No more draining tuna in a strainer and not being able to get all the water out.

Tuna melt? Delicious. Green bean casserole.... not so much. When I was growing up, it was made with canned green beans which make my stomach turn. Now my dad makes it with frozen green beans but I still can't get the taste of those nasty canned beans out of my mind.
posted by kathrynm at 10:59 AM on October 5, 2019


I’m late to this party, but: people of MetaFilter! Those of you who are ex-pats or don’t have the right dishware or who think canned soup is a weird thing to put in a casserole (which: fie on you but I’ll allow it for this one case): I have found the platonic ideal tuna noodle casserole, and it requires nothing unusual or unnatural. It came into my life as an aged sheet of 8.5x11 paper, folded width-wise and stained pink from god-knows-what, stuffed inside a book of recipes my wife has that dates back to her grandmother. This particular recipe is a photocopy of a page of a book whose publication long predates my birth. I had no strong feelings on tuna noodle casserole until I had this recipe, which I solemnly swear to you is goddamn delicious and should be experienced by everyone at least once. You need:

2 oz butter
Half an onion, diced up fine
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup grated jarlsberg
2 or 3 little cans of tuna
1/2 lb noodles of any sort
Some green peas

Cool your onion in your butter. Whisk together the eggs, sour cream, and cheese. Cook your noodles to somewhere between crunchy and al dente, then drain. Mix all the things in a 9x9 glass dish. Season as desired. 350 for 45 minutes, or until it’s light brown and crunchy on top.

It’s delicious! It’s way better than any casserole I ate growing up! It’s wildly unhealthy because of all the dairy! But you should eat it anyway, because it’s awesome!
posted by Mayor West at 11:09 AM on October 5, 2019 [2 favorites]


Samantha Irby rules. That’s all.
posted by sucre at 11:57 AM on October 5, 2019 [3 favorites]


My personal version of the tuna casserole is dumping a can of tuna, and maybe some peas if I was feeling fancy, into a cooked package of Kraft mac and cheese. I ate it often and with a surprising amount of enthusiasm during my poor days. (The enthusiasm may have come from my discovery of adobo.) The comfort food nonpareil of my childhood, however, was tater tot casserole, which was tater tots, browned hamburger, cream of mushroom soup, and whatever spices happened to wander over from the spice rack. The aunt who made this claimed to have lost the recipe when I asked for it through an intermediary (it was that kind of relationship), and my joy was not merely culinary when I found it in the White Trash Cookbook.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:33 PM on October 5, 2019 [3 favorites]


I grew up with tuna noodle casserole and tuna potato chip casserole. They were both good, though I prefer the noodles as an adult. Even as a kid I mostly liked the potato chip one as an excuse to eat a few potato chips. (The method of limiting junk food in my house was that we were allowed to request ingredients but not anything ready made. Thus tuna potato chip casserole, which if you helped make, you could sneak a few chips.)

I don't remember peas in either of them. Sounds fine though, unlike the time my spouse got creative and put finely diced green pepper in. I find cooked green pepper to be beyond bitter and it managed to kill every bite until I started picking it out. And then, because it was so finely cut, it killed every third bite or so, having snuck everywhere. (And yes, after that production, he has not tried green peppers in it again.)
posted by Margalo Epps at 1:43 PM on October 5, 2019


Tuna casserole is one of the few things my father can cook (or admits to knowing how to cook). My mother hates it, so we would only ever have it on the rare occasion that my mother was away from home overnight. I think I only ever really enjoyed it because it was a novel experience to have dad cook something for dinner. It might be interesting to cook it for myself and see how it holds up.
posted by backseatpilot at 3:56 PM on October 5, 2019


I was never fond of tuna noodle casserole because of the peas, but my sister (who eats no seafood otherwise) would request it for her birthday meal. To this day, it’s her favorite.

I had to look up what our Corelle pattern was - snowflake blue, produced only from 1970-76. I don’t think my mom had an actual casserole dish, maybe just a baking pan, so the noodles themselves got crunchy. I don’t think she started adding potato chips on top until after I’d left home.
posted by Kriesa at 5:45 PM on October 5, 2019


And we now use the foil packets of Starkist tuna. No more draining tuna in a strainer and not being able to get all the water out.

Although it bugs me that there isn't an obvious conversion to cans on any of the Starkist foilpacks as far as I've been able to spot. I had to dig out the website last night and work out what the equivalent was, and I still think I massively under-tuna'd the dish.

I mean, my baseline is the 11oz foilpack and the 5oz cans are 4oz of tuna drained, so I'm only over by ~50% usually.
posted by Kyol at 8:48 PM on October 5, 2019


Between all the very wet, fall weather we've been having and a long drive home from a funeral this afternoon I was feeling very TTHD today. I had the ingredients on hand so I called an audible and switched up the weekend menu. We make our own sauce around here, so it was wonderful AND the right thing for the day. I am actually sitting here at 0100 eating the leftovers and reading about casserole cravings. Perfect.
posted by Cris E at 11:05 PM on October 5, 2019 [1 favorite]


My mom had such un-fond memories of her mom's Tuna-mato casserole that she famously took action (aged about 12). She erased it from the weekly meal calendar and threw the card from the recipe box in the trash.) My grandma noticed the gap, thought she'd forgotten a meal and put something else in, and... they never spoke of it again. (Except she was a hero to her younger siblings, of course, who still tell the tale with admiration.)

That was apparently an unholy concoction of box mac n cheese, canned tomatoes, and canned tuna, though (I've never had it). Her own tuna noodle casserole, which we fondly ate, had frozen peas and was a pretty standard cream of mushroom base. (No crispy thing on top, though, that's just weird. The noodles and cheese are supposed to crisp up when you bake it.)
posted by puffyn at 8:28 AM on October 6, 2019 [5 favorites]


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