Monday, April 27, 2009

White Trash Food: A Confession

My sister-in-law is getting married this month, which is a good thing. Now my mother-in-law can find something else to keep her up at night. The other day, I got a bridal shower invitation from a friend of my SIL's reading: Please bring your favorite kitchen gadget and 3 recipes for the bride's new recipe box.

Recipe Box? Do people even still have those things?

I loved riffling through my mother's recipe box as a kid. Most of the recipes were splattered with some kind of detritus or crumpled slightly or water-marked. But mom's recipe box was a bone-fide historical document.

The recipe for our annual Christmas butter cookie? Given to my mother by one of her students in 1964 after my mother confessed she couldn't bake (this whole baking disorder is genetic, obviously). The recipe for vichyssoise? A gift from my uncle during one of his brief flirtations with French cuisine. Chocolate cake? Aunt Lou. Fancy spaghetti? That lady in North Dakota whose kid was a biter. Pasta primavera? A relic from my college days when I flirted with vegetarianism.

All of my mother's recipes were lovingly handwritten and passed along by someone kind enough to share. My mother could go through that box and name every person behind each smeared card, and every card had a story to tell.

I keep my recipes in very organized 3 ring binders and a lot of them have sleek pictures from magazines accompanying them, but the charm just isn't there. As I was flipping through my binders, trying to figure out which 3 recipes would make the cut, I stumbled upon a musty old recipe card from my childhood. I must have gotten it from my mother at some time, or stolen it outright--I have no idea.

This particular recipe was for a dish I loved, loved, loved growing up. And it looked like a lot of the other recipes in my mother's collection; in short, it was White Trash Food. Now c'mon there, you know what I'm talking about and don't pretend you didn't eat and love a few White Trash delights of your own growing up.

White Trash food, at least for me, is some kind of casserole containing soup. And maybe some Velveeta cheese. And some bread crumbs or fried onions on top. And as much as I cringe today at recipes that read: Add a can of cream of mushroom soup, some of those casseroles were kinda tasty.

I didn't include my White Trash recipe when I filled out my 3 recipe cards. Stuff like that just doesn't cut it today. Paula Deen can get away with cooking crap like this but she has that whole Irresistible Southern Charm thing going on. And I certainly don't think I'll be serving this to my husband because say the word Casserole and he turns green around the gills. I guess Indian people (dots, not feathers) don't do casseroles. And that's fine by me.

But I think even the most hardened Food Snob has a soft spot for some kind of White Trash food. It's a little slice of the past, served up with reverie, that takes you back to Mom and the warm kitchen of your childhood.

My favorite part of this recipe is the last line, written by my grandmother: Delicious as an accompaniment to meat loaf with a tossed salad. You think I'm shitting you, but I'm not.

Broccoli and Rice Casserole (serves 8)

Cook 2 cups of rice according to directions.
Cook 1 package of frozen chopped broccoli and drain.
Heat up 1 can cream of mushroom soup and add 1 jar of Cheez Whiz.
Chop 1 can of water chestnuts.

Mix everything together and put in a buttered casserole dish. Cover and bake at 350 for about a half hour.

Note: Like most White Trash recipes, there aren't really any detailed directions eg: size of the jar of Cheez Whiz/package of broccoli and I haven't eaten it since about 5th grade, so I can't help you out there.

And no, I'm not going to make this and report back to you. Some things are better left to the fuzzy lens of memory. But if you'd like to share your childhood favorite with me, I'd love to hear it.


  1. i loved this post, and it reminds me of the old falling apart recipe box of MY mother's, the popular ones barely readable through the years of use...

    And there's always a soft spot for white trash food, agreed! My white trash food memory consists of: 1 pot of cooked macaroni, 1 can of mushroom soup. et voila; Poor Man's alfredo...

    if it was a special occaision, you could sprinkle some parmesan cheese... ah good times.

  2. You make me admit the strangest things on your blog. First, my fave breakfast food, and now this...

    Tuna noodle casserole.

    I probably haven't had it in 15 years, and probably never will because if I ever made it, my entire family would leave me. But they would leave me with the casserole, which might not me so bad.

  3. It is a little bit boring but my childhood dish (and it is still my favourite dish and would be my dying meal) is spaghetti bolognese - I wrote about it on my blog back in September and why I would probably groan for it on my death bed... I'm not sure this is trashy though... trashy would be adding baked beans to a sausage casserole but it works!

    I also recall that Nigella Lawson boils her gammon/ham in coca-cola -sometimes she goes as far as using cherry flavour coke too...

    Sweet chilli sauce, tomato ketchup, onion and garlic and chilli flakes with tinned tuna all mixed together with pasta is also an interesting one...

  4. I am so glad there are people in the world unafraid to admit to liking humiliating food.

    Gibby, I had to laugh because I hated it when my mom made tuna casserole. Tuna+Heat=Wrong! At least for me!

  5. I've never heard the term white trash food before... but now I'm a little frightened about the label that might be placed upon my cooking. YIKES!

    But Gibby... EW! No tuna noddle casserole!!

  6. My sweet Kathy B. I would "never" call your food White Trash food. Unless you serve me meat loaf, and then I might be tempted.

  7. Ok, great. I just realized that I took White Trash Casserole to Christmas dinner last year. I'm so fancy!

    Anyway, it was Chicken Divine, and I did substitute Cheddar Broccoli soup for the Cream of Celery that the recipe called I get some flair points for that?

  8. Ink, you can bring White Trash Casserole to my house any day, and if it doesn't have GibbyHotTuna in it, I will dig in. And you definitely get flair points for ditching cream of mushroom.

  9. YES! Don't forget the can of Chow Mein noodles to put on the top!

  10. @Ink: Guess what? I just found a recipe for Chicken Divan (aka:Divine) in a very modern, very good cookbook...wait for's an anthology of BEST, favorite recipes from Gourmet magazine, spanning 60 years of publication.

    Edited by none other than the amazing (and infamous) Ruth Reichl, ex-restaurant reviewer for the NY Times and author of Tender at the Bone (and following memoirs).

    I will post the recipe tomorrow, because I need to pay the poor dude who is steam-cleaning the fecal matter out of my carpets.

    But Ink, no worries about the White Trash Casserole. You will have a new recipe (soupless) to bring next Christmas. And according to Gourmet, Chicken Divan is good food, thank you very much.

    And Ck--those chow mein noodles are scrumptious. Mommy crack. I'm not kiddin.'

  11. This is one of the funniest comment strings I have ever read. And people, that is it! I am inviting you all over for some tuna noodle casserole. With those fried onions from a can as an appetizer. And you are going to LOVE it! I am sure the wine that I throw down your throats will help.

  12. Yay! A GibbyHotTuna party! And while I'm there, could one of you guys teach me how to use a fucking computer?

    I have NO idea what happened to the newest post and why I cannot change it.

  13. Gibby, I am a closet Tuna Noodle fan. Don't tell anyone.

    And KW, that is so cool! Now I can say I'm a Trashy Gourmet! ;)

  14. I LOVE casseroles, and like the rest of you, have a family who accuses me of attempting to poison them if I actually make one.

    But I feel that we are neglecting a whole area of white trash food - mayonaise salads! Does nobody else have relatives who live in Iowa? For example, "Pea Salad" is peas and little cubes of velveeta smothered in mayo. "Cauliflower salad" is cooked cauliflower and little cubes of velveeta drowning in mayo. You get the idea. Very popular at church picnics. Now THAT is what I think of when I think of white trash food.

  15. Joda,

    You are correct! We also left out Jello salads, which for sure are white trash food. There's even SOME Jello salads WITH mayonnaise in them, which I think probably is the cum laude of white trash foods!

    Funny you mention that pea salad. A fellow (much better) blogger just posted about pea salad. If you go to my dashboard, find Homesick Texan's link. It's a post or two down. Too funny.

  16. I *heart* the comment that said "Tuna+Heat=Wrong".


    ...Only my mum put in water chestnuts with it. Gah... just thinking about it makes me gag.

    But I will admit to loving that White Trash Food... they are the core requirement for any office potluck!

  17. I forgot about Pea Salad! Wow, we need to have a potluck of White Trash faves, sounds like.