We come before you today, on the eve of a great national holiday, with a matter of deep concern. As we look around us, we a society that has lost its way, a people whose very identity is in question. We are forced to ask: Who are we, really? Is this what we’ve become? Is there any hope for redemption or are we doomed to a bleak future that will never taste the greatness that previous generations did? How did it ever come to this?
Turn off the Twitter and put down the TV. Or maybe it’s the other way around. We’re so confused we hardly know which is which. But here are the unpleasant facts: A survey by The Harris Poll found that the second-most despised dish on the Thanksgiving table is green bean casserole.
Say it ain’t so.
It’s a poll, though, so it can’t be wrong, right?
As for the most despised dish, well, that was canned cranberry sauce – 29% of those surveyed said they didn’t like that but ate it anyway because it’s, you know, tradition. Hey, we’re right there with you on that one. That stuff is nasty. You ever listened to how that stuff comes out of the can?
That is not the sound of a pleasant holiday get-together. OK, having to listen to your red-hat-wearing uncle Bubba-Joe Jr. and your vegan cousin Misty Morning-Starshine argue about politics isn’t very pleasant, either, but at least you know they’ll stop once the Cowboys game comes on. Of course, then they’ll argue over Colin Kaepernick, but you get the idea.
Anyway, don’t get us off track. We’re here to talk about the Green Bean Casserole Crisis. Not that time Misty’s boyfriend from Colorado slipped a different kind of mushroom into the recipe, either. Anyway, we don’t talk about that anymore. But we do want to talk about this: The Harris Poll found that 24% of you can’t stand green bean casserole.
What is wrong with you people? Have you lost all sense of right and wrong?
But wait — it gets worse. Yes, it really does.
Del Monte Foods once did a survey of what states serve the most green bean casserole at Thanksgiving. The most green bean casserole-friendly state in the country? Kentucky. A neighboring state. A state that can’t be that different from us, right? Apparently it is, though.
Virginia didn’t even make the Top 20. Del Monte was kind enough not to release the rest of the list, sparing us further indignity. Maybe we finished 21st. Or maybe we finished last. We just don’t know. We do know we weren’t in the Top 20, which is a pretty generous accounting. As the great philosopher Ricky Bobby once said in “Talladega Nights,” “if you ain’t first, you’re last.” Well, we ain’t first. We ain’t even second or third or 20th.
Just listen to some of the states that made the Top 20. OK, Kentucky we can respect. Bluegrass. Basketball. Bourbon. And the other big “b” word — beans. Wisconsin, Missouri, Iowa and Maine rounded out the top five. OK, all normal kinds of states. New Hampshire was sixth. But then it starts getting weird. Florida was seventh. Florida’s crazy. But even Florida likes green bean casserole better than Virginia. Next came Colorado. You know, the Colorado full of pot-smoking hippies. The Colorado where Denver just voted to decriminalize magic mushrooms — which explains Misty’s ex-boyfriend. After you get high on more than the Rocky Mountains, maybe you’ll eat anything. But then at ninth place comes California. California!
Earlier this year, Todd Pillion, a Republican state legislator from Abingdon, warned against a Democratic takeover of the General Assembly this way: “We are one vote, one election, and one bill away from being New York and California.” That was meant to sound scary. If you’re politically right of center, it sure is. But here’s the thing: New York made the Top 20 list, too. That’s right, California and New York both like green bean casserole better than Virginia does. Something is wrong here. Terribly wrong. Green bean casserole is supposed to be the one thing that unites us. And for some it does. What else puts Mississippi (10th place) and California together on the same list? It sure isn’t politics. But green bean casserole rises above politics. Green bean casserole is the perfect unifier in these troubled times. Turkey’s a problem for vegetarians and vegans. But you can make a vegan green bean casserole and, honestly, nobody would know the difference. Everybody’s happy!
So why isn’t Virginia in the Top 20 here? After all, the essential ingredient here is the green bean — or, as grandma used to call it, the snap bean. We spend our summers lovingly tending our tomatoes, but what’s usually off to the side of our garden? Green beans. Why have we Virginians forsaken our roots?
The green bean casserole should be a matter of Southern pride — although, truth be told, it was actually invented by someone in New Jersey. Specifically, Dorcas Reilly of Camden, New Jersey, in 1955. Now maybe you’re picturing some meek post-war housewife trying to fix a special meal for her man when he got home from the factory. If so, you’re a sexist pig who has fallen for gender stereotypes. Reilly worked for Campbell’s Soup — as a supervisor in the company’s home economics department. Most women in the ’50s didn’t work outside the home. Reilley did — and she was in management, thank you very much. The Drexel University graduate was a pioneer, if you want to look at it that way. She was in charge of inventing new recipes and she invented a lot. Hundreds of them, Campbell’s says. Think of her as the Thomas Edison of soup-based recipes. One of them was the green bean casserole. “It was the perfect recipe for post-War America, when cheap, fuss-free cooking was all the rage,” the Smithsonian magazine tells us. Yes, that Smithsonian. Easy-to-cook recipes made it easier for women to enter the workforce — since men still expected them to do the cooking. In a small way, the green bean casserole was an agent of cultural change.
Campbell’s printed Reilly’s recipe on its soup can and, boom, just like that, “Green Bean Bake” was a hit — although most people preferred to call it green bean casserole. It’s still Campbell’s most-requested recipe; 40% of the company’s cream of mushroom soup sales go toward green bean casserole.
Green bean casserole is simultaneously a symbol for gender equality and corporate profit. It is a reminder of — dare we say it this way? — what made America great.
If you don’t like green bean casserole, that’s pretty much the same thing as saying you hate America.
Virginia, you disappoint us.
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