From the Editor: The Wonder of Casseroles

Unlike most Midwesterners of my generation, I didn’t grow up eating casseroles.

Don’t get me wrong, my mom fed us plenty of creamed soup mixed with various starches, veggies and ground meat. But these quick meals were more likely to be dished from a skillet or pot — bypassing the final sojourn in the oven and the crunchy, cheesy topping.

When I began cooking for myself, I would make the occasional lasagna, but the appeal of this supposed comfort food escaped me. My mother-in-law gamely tried to convince me otherwise, touting the benefits of an oven-baked meal and pulling out a version of the Create-Your-Own Casserole chart.

I didn’t listen — until I had children.

As a new mother, I was overwhelmed with gratitude as friends showed up with chicken casseroles, pans of mac ‘n’ cheese, and baked ziti. Despite the chaos of those first weeks, when a shower was a major accomplishment, my little family ate well.

Casseroles soon became a staple at our house. I could assemble everything during nap time, and dinner prep was reduced to heating the oven. Starting months before my second daughter was born, I prepared and froze casseroles, stashing away meals for the frenzied future.

Today, even though Erica Hoskins might assert that ‘no one says it’s their favorite food,’ I would have to disagree. I’ve been making chicken and green bean casserole for more than two decades, and my children still love it. One of the first things my younger daughter learned to make was baked mac ’n’ cheese.

I agree wholeheartedly with Hoskins’ other statement, “I have such a fondness for the 9-by-13 pan” and all the delicious comfort that can fit into it.

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