Thursday, August 13, 2009

White Trash MotherLode: Shipwreck Casserole

In my family, when birthday time finally rolled around, it meant one thing (well, okay, two things if you include cake). Birthdays meant Total Menu Domination.

On my birthday, my mother allowed me to choose the entire dinner menu. Now of course there were a few ground rules; as in, the entire dinner couldn't consist of dessert, and it couldn't be something bank-breaking like lobster, but otherwise, the field was pretty open.

Actually, Total Menu Domination occurred the day before my birthday, because we always dined out on the actual day.

I think I enjoyed planning the before-Birthday dinner more than eating the restaurant one. I liked the idea of picking and choosing my then-favorites, presenting the menu to mother, and feasting on the bounty at the end.

It varied from year to year, depending on my whims. One year, it was fried pork chops, cream gravy, mashed potatoes and tomato salad. Thank goodness I was going through a growth spurt that year; that's an ass-busting spread right there.

Sometimes it was tacos, enchiladas, guacamole. Or shrimp scampi. Or pasta primavera with real garlic bread. If Gramma Rhetta was in town, it was definitely fried chicken and cornbread.

Now Total Menu Domination is a wonderful idea. It made me feel special, and loved, and powerful to be Master of the Dinner. I buzzed in and out of the kitchen all day, watching the progress of my feast. And when it was finally done and laid on the table, I always felt a secret little rush. Total Menu Domination=cool.

Except for one leeeeeetle problem.

Every year on my sister's birthday, she got Total Menu Domination. And my sister always picked the same hideous, nasty shit.

Inevitably, her birthday would roll around, and every year I hoped she'd pick something normal, like lasagna or steak with a baked potato. Or even, God forbid, pot roast dinner, which I didn't much like. But no, my sister's birthday meant the arrival of one thing: Shipwreck Casserole.

Shipwreck Casserole struck fear in my bones and made my legs itch to run far, far away. Shipwreck Casserole came from the Book. You know, The White Trash MotherLode Book. If you missed it, you can read about the Book here.

If you look at the ingredient list in the recipe, it doesn't seem too bad, really. It isn't unlike a lot of casserole recipes from the 60's era. But I assure you, throw those ingredients in one dish and bake them together, and you have retch-o-rama on your hands. Some vile magic happened to Shipwreck Casserole while it was in the oven, and as soon as my mother pulled that freakshow out, fragrant and steaming, I'd start to gag.

My sister loved Shipwreck Casserole. She squeezed a little ketchup over the top and happily munched her way through a huge pile. For the record, that little spectacle made me gag again.

How you can raise two children with entirely different tastes is beyond me. I mean, look at the movies-- I was popcorn (none of that gnarly fake butter shit on it), she was Red Vines.

I liked to know what was in my food, at all times. She would wolf down Shipwreck Casserole and chili and meatloaf, for Chrissakes, with no hesitation. It boggled my mind.

As the years pass, I wonder if my sister really loved Shipwreck Casserole as much as she did. I'm sort of thinking that maybe even she got sick of it every year. But every year she asked for it and smiled sweetly as I turned green and prayed to die.

And Sis, guess what? I'm onto you. You ordered up that meal because you liked watching me stew and fret and work myself into a complete froth the entire day. It wasn't the food, it was the accompanying entertainment that you so enjoyed. Well, Sis, beware. I'm combing the internet for whoopie cushions, garlic gum and exploding cigarettes as we speak. Just wait...someday, you're toast.

Shipwreck Casserole
feeds 4 crazy people who don't have the sense to gag

2 peeled baking potatoes
1 large yellow onion
2 stalks of celery, sliced
salt and pepper
1 pound ground beef
1 can kidney beans, undrained
1 can tomato soup

Slice raw potatoes into a large greased casserole, spreading them to an even layer. Add a layer of onions, a layer of celery, and salt and pepper. Brown ground beef and add 1 can kidney beans. Pour into dish. Cover top of casserole with tomato soup.

Bake for an hour or more at 350 degrees.


  1. D - that shit sounds WRONG!
    I have to believe that your dear old Sis just liked seeing you squirm. Any recipe with the word Shipwreck in the title can't be good.
    As for the term 'Total Menu Domination' it! Who wouldn't feel special with that power?
    Great photo BTW, I can totally see little Chicken Wing in that picture of you.

  2. I was OK at potatoes, even interested at the onions and celery, got nervous at the ground beef, but you lost me at kidney beans and tomato soup! Tell me, TKW, which would you rather have...Shipwreck Casserole OR Tuna Noodle? You know which one I'm going with!!!

  3. I have nighmares of this one too! When I was little my mom worked nights as a nurse. So it was up to my dad to make supper. Well dad was okay at macaroni and cheese and noodle soup (both from a package) so mom would make meals for us to reheat. And she always made shipwreck casserole. Oh god. I hated it. I hated every single bite and I was never allowed to leave the table until my plate was clean. Gag.

  4. doesn't sound so bad to me. Great, great story, though! And um, I like meatloaf, too....soooooo...what does that say about me?

  5. I think the name is appropriate because I'd have to be shipwrecked to eat it! Love the opening photo!

  6. Leisa: Oh, you think I look like Chicken Wing there? Awwwwwww, I love it.

    Paige: I cannot believe you actually had to eat this monstrosity growing up, too!

    girlichef: your love of meatloaf is a sign of severe mental illness. I advise you to seek help immediately. :)

    Phoo-D: yeah, what you said.

    Gibby: you would have me choose between Shipwreck and Tuna Noodle? That's like asking me to choose Herpes or Gonorrhea!!

  7. Ah yes, aren't sisters great fun? We had our share of casseroles to eat while growing up too. Not called Shipwreck, but plenty that I didn't like. I think the only one I did like was the one that tasted like cheese burgers, with corn in it and crushed potato chips on top! My sisters and I did like different things, my sister was the gager! And we had to clean our plate too (you know with all those starving children I wish I could send my casserole to).

  8. Ha! That's nothing. I (infrequently) make a concoction known as yumghetti -- ground beef, celery, onion, tomato soup, cream of mushroom soup, cheese and noodles. It's vile but also delicious and the toddler inhales it.

  9. I got to pick the menu, too. The one that stands out was my 12th birthday--all the oysters on the half shell I could eat and chocolate cake. Divine!

  10. I love casseroles... YUM, but that sounds wretched. KIDNEY BEANS??
    We had the same birthday dinner rules and for a few years I chose turkey shepherd's pie, mainly because I think the rest of my fam hated it, but I really did love it.

  11. This doesn't sound too bad, now my aunt's corned beef and cabbage, that's another story.

  12. catherine: you gotta be shitting me! oysters at 12? You were ahead of your time!

    Kate: need yumghetti recipe...white trash food is vile, and oftentimes delicious. But not Shipwreck Casserole.

    Jessica: you and my sister can cackle together in a corner girls just like to see our stomachs turn over, you naughty things.

  13. Casseroles are nasty just in general. And, that shipwreck business is some nasty sounding shit. Seriously wouldn't even down it if I was on a wrecked ship. Actually, I lie. I'd eat pretty much anything at the first sign of starvation (aka my stomach growls), but that's because I'm a total food whore these days. And, for the record, your sister is an evil genius. I'm certain that she and #2 were trained by the same master.

    PS Haven't seen you at Casa de Dummies lately...what's up with that?!

  14. Hahaha, PBD, I have been waiting and smoking you out of the rabbit hole! Haven't seen you around here for a while, either, Quid Pro Quo :) Always good to have your sassy ass in the house.

  15. My Bday is in March so I often requested corned beef and cabbage. My kids would die if I made them eat cabbage!

  16. It looks pleasant enough. But I believe all casseroles are evil! (Except Chicken Enchilada casserole, which is heavenly)

  17. We also do the pick a meal for your birthday and I have to say, thank god my sister loved roast chicken!! Your write a great story TWK as always- thanks for the laugh
    PS good to see you on the Blogroll

  18. We also do menu domination for birthdays in our family. This year so far it's been enchiladas, pad thai and good old steak and potatoes. The other thing we do is let the kids pick their favorite junk cereal when grocery shopping the week of their birthday. You know....Capn Crunch, Fruit Loops, all the things that are banned the rest of the year.

    P.S. I feel the same way about mangos, but the dacquiris were delicious.

  19. Heather, the idea of the "junky cereal of the week" is brilliant! I am going to adopt that tradition!

    And it sounds like your family has GOOD taste in food.

  20. This post was so funny everyone in the room was asking what i was cackling at. The real gem is your writing and the imagery. "fragrant and steaming" evokes images of many other offensive things besides casserole. let me tell you.

    I love all casseroles esp since i love to save money and my husband can always eat second and thirds of everything so i must make a casserole to stretch the meat.

    And i love meatloaf and c'mon, tuna casserole is not THAT bad.

    I wanted to like Shipwreck casserole, but . . . . kidney beans and tomato soup? That is weird.

  21. Disgusting. What fool, shipwrecked or not, would combine those? I would eat one ingredient a day for the lenngth of my shipwreck, but no sir, not in a casserole.
    Thank heaven we're done with the "clean your plate" b.s. era. And I can't wait to let my kids Dominate on their birthday.

  22. Yuck. Just yuck.

    This is why I don't take cuises. No need to worry about the imminent shipwreck.

  23. This post made me laugh out loud several times. Such a precious picture, too.

  24. This is hilarious! It's a total sister thing to do, too... to keep requesting it just because it made you crazy. We got to pick the meals on our birthday, too, but sadly there was no white trash cookbook to choose from :( My dad did buy me a copy of the Joy of Cooking from the 60's recently, and it has plenty of canned tuna and jello type recipes.

  25. Does your magical book have a recipe for a chickeny casserole with water chestnuts, probably celery, probably cream of mushroom soup, and those fried chinese noodles on top?

  26. Oh my goodness, that's awful.

    When I was growing up, my Mom used to make something called bachelor's casserole. It was ground beef, onions, canned tomatoes, green peppers, and rice. Not as gross as shipwreck casserole, but pretty disgusting in its own right to me, since I hated the taste of green peppers.

  27. MRain65,

    Thanks for stopping by! Bachelor's Casserole sounds equally revolting! My condolences!