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.