Target knows its customers, and senses the season very well.
All week, ingredients necessary for blending together the "mother of comfort food" - green bean casserole - are on sale at the red bull's-eye. It's no coincidence.
Last Sunday morning, reading the newspaper, I saw the Target circular, and immediately rushed down to the store. Who cares about Blu-Ray machines on sale for $59? And do I need another set of weird t-shirts with bizarre logos meant for folks 40 years younger than me?
But to have Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup, canned green beans, and those delicious dried onions, all on sale - at the same time! Oh my.
Upon arrival, I became a bit anxious. Packed. Virtually every parking spot filled.
Determined to exhibit some turkey spirit, I gamely headed into the store, to the newly-constructed food section, and...to canned vegetables. Damn! Every vegetable sold by Del Monte there in abundance, nicely stacked, can by can, except, green beans. Literally, gone. Everyone had seen the same morning ad I had. Damn. I stood there, now pondering a preponderance of yams topped with marshmallows for my turkey dinner.
Originally called Green Bean Bake, the dish was first reciped in 1955 by Dorcas Reilly, a staff member in the Home Economics department of the Campbell Soup Company.
Dorcas, you see, wanted to create an easy recipe around two things many Americans had in their 1950s pantries: green beans and Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup.
Sure enough, the dish became a huge hit, so big that in 2002, one Dorcas Reilly presented the original recipe card to the National Inventor's Hall of Fame in Ohio. In fact, according to the Campbell's Soup website, "The now-yellowed 8 x 11 recipe card takes its place alongside Enrico Fermi's invention of the first controlled nuclear reactor and Thomas Alva Edison's two greatest hits: the light bulb and the phonograph."
Disheartened, I looked around. The onions; easy. Plenty in stock, and in a dandy new container, I might add. The mushroom soup? Plenty, but on an end rack.
End rack. That was it! Surely, Target must have more cans of green beans in stock, and surely, they must be located elsewhere: on an end rack. Surely, it was true.
After grabbing four cans, I headed to the check out counter, passing dour-faced customers who remained in front of the empty vegetable shelves, perplexed, not yet having my good luck. A smile came over me as visions of green bean casserole bubbled in my head, nearly done in my hot oven, the onions just lightly browned on top, and just enough of the mixture stuck to the sides of the dish to make for delicious scraps after my dinner company departed.
Green Bean Casserole clearly has its detractors.
Last Monday, a writer for The Oregonian, just to our north, penned a piece entitled "This Thanksgiving, ditch the green bean casserole for in-season kale."
Nothing like a little culinary controversy. But seriously, if I were to tell my kids that kale had replaced green beans this year at the Turkey Table, I'd be roasted. "Hey kids!!!! Got room for more kale????"
And Metro News Toronto showed its disdain when it wrote:
"What is it about this time of year that makes people crazy for green bean casserole? You tell us! None of us eat it! (Seriously, readers: We are mystified by this dish's popularity. Please someone explain it to us. When we see people make it, it just looks like gloop.)"
But it's Mother Nature Network that has me, and likely others, concerned:
"New study finds disturbing levels of BPA in many of the foods that are included in a traditional Thanksgiving dinner."
There it was, the dangers of canned food.
That's all right. I'll take my chances with a few cans of canned food this Thanksgiving. 'Cause most of the rest of the year I grab those healthy, fresh vegetables, the ones left out in open grocery store shelves that everyone picks over with their - ahem - clean hands.
I'm home now, and my newly-adopted Chinese daughter is urging me to make green bean casserole at least once prior to our Thanksgiving dinner. I can only smile, knowing the positive inroads I've made on this 15-year-old's life.
Something called Enhanced Online News (EON) says "This holiday season, an estimated 30 million households will continue to enjoy this family favorite – it’s no wonder Green Bean Casserole has been nicknamed the “mother of all comfort foods.”
I'm not surprised. When I began the research for this article, 'Green Bean Casserole' was in 16th place of the top 20 most searched terms on Google's website. It's dropped down now, but it will be back. Back in the top 20, and back on my table this Thanksgiving. And for that, I give thanks.
Here's the original Green Bean Casserole recipe, from the Campbell Soup website. Just in case you run out of kale.