Foodie Tuesday: Locusts & Casserole

I was at home when the earthquake hit last week.  I grew up in Alaska, so the sensation of the earth’s rolling and shaking was at once familiar and frightening.  A couple of major personal upheavals coincided with the earthquake, so all of my foundations were rocked.  “When it rains, it pours,” I thought, then turned on the television to find that I was absolutely correct: Hurricane Irene was headed directly our way.  I phoned my mother-in-law to commiserate. “Earthquakes, hurricanes, all this other mishigas…oy, what’s next?” she asked.  Only half-kidding, I replied, “Locusts.”

As my post-earthquake jitters ebbed, I paced the apartment, trying to think of some way to be useful.  I felt helpless, knowing full well that I could control neither the impending storm nor the knock-the-wind-out-of-us events that were unfolding.  However, I am not descended from Midwestern women for nothing: this week called for a casserole.  No high-tone bechamel or fancy-schmancy cheese would do for this family dinner.  No, these literal and figurative natural disasters called for the big guns of nostalgic comfort food: Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup, frozen peas, shredded cheddar, and canned tuna.

Later that evening, we gathered around the table and found a measure of solace in the homey, humble flavors of tuna noodle casserole.  Unsettled by the events of the week and bracing ourselves for what lay ahead, we said little.  Words felt inadequate and small talk was impossible, so instead of talking, we took second helpings.  And third.

A week later, the worst of the storm seems to have passed.  Hurricane Irene largely spared our corner of New York, and the turbulent life events that were so unnerving just a few days ago seem much more manageable now.  Last week’s casserole didn’t solve any of our problems, but the companionship and comfort of a shared meal fortified our bodies and spirits.

No matter how hard we may try to protect ourselves from life’s inevitable earthquakes and hurricanes, the stubborn truth persists: security is an illusion.  That’s just life.  But on this clear, late-summer day, I am happy to report that not a single locust is in sight.

Tuna Noodle Casserole (serves 4 hungry adults in need of comfort)

2 cans Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup
2 cans tuna, drained
12 oz. noodles (macaroni, penne, bow-tie pasta), cooked al dente
1 C frozen peas, cooked
1/2 C mild cheddar (more or less to taste)
1/2 C milk
1 C bread crumbs (panko works great here)

-Pre-heat oven to 350°.
-Combine soup, tuna, noodles, peas, cheddar, & milk in a large bowl and transfer to a large buttered casserole dish.
-Toast the panko with some butter until golden brown.
-Top casserole with the panko and the grated parmesan and bake for half an hour, or until golden & bubbly.
-Share with people you love and be of good courage.

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6 thoughts on “Foodie Tuesday: Locusts & Casserole

    • I think it’s because tuna noodle casserole is supremely satisfying, yet also supremely easy. When the soul is taxed, it’s gratifying to toss a few basics in a dish, bake the whole mess in the oven, call it dinner…and have it be totally delicious. I read some of your blog, too, & really enjoyed it! Thanks for stopping by. (-:

  1. Ah, Hilary! And then there was my college room mate, who (let it be said) didn’t know much about cooking. He made the tuna noodle casserole and forgot the tuna! I won’t say it was delicious.

    All the best, I enjoy the blog, and wish I could hear you sing live sometime. When I head to NY for a visit, I’ll let you know.

    • It’s SO great to hear from you–and I’m happy you like my musings here. I’ve had some lovely correspondence with Kathryn, as well. In other news, tuna noodle casserole sans tuna!? Egads! I’d love to see you if you come to NYC sometime–please keep me posted.

  2. Hillary, you’ve been in New York too long. Pasta??? It’s macaroni (shaped like little elbows), none of this fancy bow ties stuff — assuming you want real a authentic midwest casserole. And either crushed crackers (soda crackers) or old potato chips on top. We don’t do panko in Kansas.

    But I did have an African friend once, who recalled fond childhood memories of crunchy roasted grasshoppers — but he probably didn’t like tuna casserole. To each his own.

    • Ha! I don’t think there’s any such thing as being in NY too long…as the song goes,

      And when I have to give the world a last farewell,
      And the undertaker starts to ring my funeral bell,
      I don’t want to go to heaven, don’t want to go to hell.
      I happen to like New York. I happen to like New York.

      Anyway, there was no macaroni at the grocery store, believe it or not, so I made do with the bow ties. And I like panko, plus I already had it in my cupboard. Inauthenticity notwithstanding, the tuna casserole was a balm for our spirits. (-: Thank you for reading, and happy cooking (& eating!).

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