Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >
Nov 22, 2013 07:25 AM

Please explain this green bean casserole thing

I just don't get it. Ok, so my parents were Hungarian so this particular dish never appeared on our table - thanksgiving or otherwise. And then I moved to Canada, where green bean casserole is NOT a thing for Thanksgiving. So I absolutely don't understand the history and custom that has led to this casserole being an inescapable ritual for American Thanksgiving. How did it happen? Is it a Campbell's conspiracy?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
    1. re: ferret

      Yeah I suspected as much but why has it become a Thanksgiving icon? I understand that terrible things get invented by food companies, but they don't usually rise to the elevated status that this seems to hold. I find it baffling.

      1. re: Nyleve

        It's easy to make with all the manufactured food products thrown together into a big goop.

      2. re: ferret

        OK, so it was a little before the '70's. That's when I came of age, but as a child we never had it so I wasn't aware of it until then.


        1. re: ferret

          This is from an era when companies promoted their products with recipes on the package, recipe fliers, and in women's magazines.

          These days it's a vehicle for selling the Fried Onions

          It became popular in an era when canned vegetables where widely used. Even now, I am more likely to use frozen green beans than fresh ones. But this casserole just isn't the same thing without the softer canned beans (though frozen frenched will work). You don't get the same homogeneous mass with crisp cooked whole green beans.

          1. re: paulj

            I like to use canned Frenched beans. I don't buy canned veggies except tomatoes, but I love GB casserole, and use canned beans for it.

          2. As a Hungarian-Canadian, I am totally flummoxed and disgusted by this dish. We had vegetables thickened with roux (fozelek), made from scratch growing up. I think the dish was born in the "convenience era" when canned goods became popular and soups were a novelty... Yuck!!!

            1 Reply
            1. re: foodslut

              Fozelek! Yes! This green bean thing seems to be the bastard child of fozelek and kraft dinner.

            2. I don't either. I even tried making it from scratch with fresh everything and its still yucky.

              5 Replies
              1. re: Chefpaulo

                Well, making it fresh or gourmet style misses the point.

                The point is a liminal sense memory, a Proustian moment. To gourmandize it is culinarily tone-deaf.

                Most cultures have dishes that are underwhelming, objectively, but beloved because of liminal sense memory. Poutine? Poi? Et cet.

                1. re: Karl S

                  In our neighborhood, Frito Pie would fall into that category, as Bourdain recently observed.

                  1. re: Karl S

                    You are correct, Karl. I forgot the subtle contributory infusion of the venerable tin can. A can of green beans, a can of mushroom soup and a can of fried onion squiggles all meld into what its creator meant to become an American mainstay, albeit every-so-slightly tin-tainted to be a remembrance of things fortunately past. But poi? I'd rather eat library paste.

                    1. re: Chefpaulo

                      In my family, we never used tinned beans, only frozen, for example. So that's MY sense memory reference point.

                      1. re: Chefpaulo

                        Library paste would prolly be less caloric, but the aftertaste really ..... sticks to ya, 'tho.

                  2. Yes. I remember exactly when it happened in the 1970's. It was a marketing campaign for Campbell's Cream of Mushroom (I think) soup. My MIL thought it was the greatest thing ever invented.

                    I find it disgusting, Especially the crispy onions on top. It never graces our Thanksgiving table.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: sandiasingh

                      Sorry to say, it wasn't the 70's. I was eating this for thanksgiving and christmas holidays in the 50's. But my mom and grandma made it with french cut green beans instead of regular green beans. It was always the holidays and it was so good. Guess some traditions might die off for a while and get reborn every 20 years or so. (Same thing happened to bell bottoms and wedged shoes)

                    2. Perhaps it is a regional thing. I live in central California. Nobody I know makes this dish for Thanksgiving or any other day. I read about it being an essential Tday dish, but have never tasted it nor seen it served.

                      11 Replies
                        1. re: sandiasingh

                          So maybe not so common in New York, where I grew up?

                          1. re: Nyleve

                            It was very common in the NY suburbs in the 60s--along with that ubiquitous sweet potato casserole topped with marshmallows.

                            Another one, almost as bad--string beans "amandine" with frozen string beans and sliced almonds.

                            We were very fancy as far as soup went--sneered at Campbells but stocked up on Progesso.

                            1. re: erica

                              Hmmm. So I'm going to blame my ignorance on the Hungarians.

                            2. re: Nyleve

                              I can't speak to NY specifically but certainly there were families throughout the mid-Atlantic states who consumed it.

                              Growing it up in Baltimore, I can recall that my mother made it a few times, but it never became a fixture on our table (thank goodness).

                              A few years ago we celebrated T-giving with family on my husband's side who had it on their table, I believe because it was traditional on the wife's side; she grew up in NJ.

                              1. re: Nyleve

                                I have a couple dozen community/church cookbooks from Ontario and Saskatchewan published in the 60s, 70s and 80s, and a few community cookbooks and Junior League cookbooks from Georgia, Louisiana and Texas (published in the 80s and 90).A variation of the green bean casserole shows up in most of them. I've also seen the recipe in Best of Bridge and Company's Coming bookis. A lot of casseroles common in the Midwest seem to be common in the Prairie provinces.
                                Another dish I've seen at Thanksgiving in AB are Schultz's potatoes/funeral potatoes (frozen hash browns/tater tots, sour cream, cream of mushroom soup and cheddar cheese).

                              2. re: sandiasingh

                                Maybe a regional thing? I grew p in New England in the 60's- and we never had it on the table. As a matter of fact, I have never tasted it- or even seen it!

                              3. re: jmnewel

                                Me too. Never seen, nor eaten, GBC at any TG dinners I've been to. I've had versions of greenbean SALADs (with almond slivers or walnuts, and red onion) at TG, Christmas and Easter dinners, but I believe that's a whole different dish:


                                1. re: jmnewel

                                  NorCal here and I've never seen it here. If it's a tradition then it's a bad one and people should consider giving it the heave ho.

                                  1. re: jmnewel

                                    I live in Oregon and my whole family loves the stuff. It's carried down to 4 generations now. Go figure.

                                    1. re: boyzoma

                                      Hmmmm. I live in Washington State and, at age 55, had never seen the stuff on anyone's table until someone brought it to an in-law's holiday potluck two years ago. We had our own..."interesting"...traditions. Nothing like sitting down to TDay dinner and watching your Grandpa pour turkey gravy over his turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing and......lutfisk. But no bean casserole. Thankfully, since I found I don't care for it.