Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Wednesday night. The couch.

Jill: [Flipping through the Pine to Prairie Telephone Pioneers Cookbook, circa 1982.] OH MY JESUS.

Jeremy: [Trying to watch Parenthood.] Hmm.

Jill: Here's a recipe for Ham Mousse.

Jeremy: Hmm?

Jill: Hammm. MMMousse.

Jeremy: Mm-hmm.

Jill: The first ingredient is Knox Gelatin!

Jeremy: [Shakes head.] Mmm-Mm!

Jill: ...It has onions, and celery, and green peppers....and whipped cream in it!

Jeremy: [Shakes head violently.] Mmm-MM!

Jill: The phrase “chill until slightly thickened” should never be used in a recipe involving ham!

Jeremy: GAH!

Jill: ...Perhaps it's time for me to take a break from the hotdish "research."

Jeremy: [Raises single eyebrow.]

Jill: [Closes cookbook, sets it aside.]

[end scene]

Tuesday, September 27, 2011



But Jill, you may (or may not) ask, isn't it a little soon to have an anything week? I mean, you've posted two entries, you have three followers, and you're using a generic Blogger template. Also, aren't you a little bit concerned that if you post more entries about hotdish than anything else, you won't just have a Hotdish Week, but a Hotdish Blog?

Well, if danger is gasoline then I am the match, baby, and I won't even bother closing the cover before striking. It's September, I'm nostalgic for northwestern Minnesota in the fall, and I just found my stash of vintage cookbooks that I never use yet refuse to part with. For those of you that grew up on Beef-n-Tatertot Casserole and Cheesy Calico Bean Bake, here's a trip down memory lane. For the rest of you poor lost souls, I have created this handy guide. Feel free to print it out and save it for use in the field. The life you save may be your own.

We'll begin at the beginning.

Is it hotdish?
  • Are the recipe instructions simple? Will they fit on one side of an index card?
  • Do the ingredients have a long shelf life? Are most of them processed, canned, boxed, or frozen?
  • Is everything cooked together in a single baking dish or crock pot?
  • Is the seasoning limited to small amounts of salt, pepper, garlic salt, onion salt, parsley, oregano, Soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce?
  • Is there some form—or even multiple forms—of cream soup involved?
  • Is the main body of the dish potato, white rice, canned beans, or “noodles”?
  • Is it topped with one or more of the following: Fritos, saltines, Ritz crackers, tater tots, potato chips, chow mein noodles, a pound of cheese, or Durkee French Fried Onions?
  • Does the name of the recipe sound ethnic, but does the actual food item bear no resemblance to the cuisine of that or any other world culture?
  • Bonus points: Would it make chef Gordon Ramsay cry? Would he then recoil as if from a deadly asp, drop multiple f-bombs, overturn the dining room table, and vanish, wailing, into the frozen and godforsaken night? Well, uff-da, who died and left him in charge of what is delicious?
Did you answer yes to five or more of the following questions? Congratulations! You are in the presence of hotdish. I hope you brought your appetite!

Now that you understand the basics, here are some typical specimens, so you may better identify feral hotdish in the wilds of the buffet table. The following recipes have been copied verbatim from the Family of God Lutheran Church Cookbook, circa 1984. These are the dishes that were often served and eaten at the Sunday potluck dinners of my youth, were likely famed amongst the congregants, and requested time and time again, from people with names like "Alvira Petersen." Let this knowledge haunt you as you peruse them!

Broccoli Casserole
2 packages thawed broccoli, chopped
½ cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
½ cup butter or margarine
Mix together:
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
1 16 oz. jar of Cheez Whiz
3 cups Minute Rice

Fold together, place in cake pan or glass baking dish. Cover with crushed saltine or Ritz crackers. Cover with foil. Bake 40 minutes at 350 degrees.


African Chow Mein
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can chicken wild rice soup
2 cans water
1 ½ lb. Hamburger
1 onion or more
1 cup chopped celery
½ cup raw rice
1 to 2 tablespoons Soy sauce

Brown meat, onion and celery. Combine with remaining ingredients. Bake in slow oven at least 1 hour at 350. Slower baking is better. Cover top with chow mein noodles the last 15-20 minutes.


Mexican chicken casserole
1 chicken (cooked)
1 dozen tortillas
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 cup milk
1 grated onion
1 can green chili salso [sic]
1 lb. Shredded cheese

Cut and cube chicken. Cut tortillas into small pieces. Combine soups, milk, onion, and salso [sic]. Put 2 tablespoons chicken broth—You know what? That's really all you need to know. I mean, cream of mushroom soup, in Mexican food? On what unholy plane does that make sense? OH MY GOD THE HUMANITY.

So there you have it: Hotdish 101. Join us for the next exciting installment, which will appear when you least expect it, and may or may not contain games and activities. I like to keep things unpredictable, to keep you off balance. It's all part of my tendency towards disorganization sinister plan for world domination.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Saturday night: the couch.

Jeremy: What are you doing?

Jill: [About to edit single solitary blog post. Again.] Nothing.

Jeremy: Are you editing your post?

Jill: ...No?

Jeremy: Stop it!

Jill: But...there are words that don't need to be there!

Jeremy: Knock it off!

Jill: But...I want to fix it!

Jeremy: You're going to be like Guns N' Roses, re-editing Chinese Democracy every day for the next twelve years. Quit it!

Jill: But...I want to make it better!

Jeremy: So did Axl Rose.

Jill: ...Touche. [Hits "publish."]

[end scene]

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

In which I am an anger-monger.

You know those days when you look and feel like sh*t on a Triscuit, the unjust application of gravity causes breakable objects to spiral from your useless grasp like whirligigs, and basic social interactions make you feel like a rabid honey badger in a hole, ready to saw off errant human limbs with your razor-sharp incisors? today was one of those.

My brother and I used to call this Being Foul.

It started the year we did summer theater in the far flung village of Walhalla, ND. Night-owls by nature, we would stay up until 4 a.m. watching VHS tapes of old Tony Awards shows and scaring each other by pointing out the window and screaming (you know, like you do...). This would have been a perfectly fine Friday night activity if we didn't have to be on the road by sunrise to make our curtain call.

One particular Saturday we hit the highway on less sleep than usual, feeling like the love children of The Machinist and Yosemite Sam, and we were so surly that we couldn't even converse...we just made guttural noises and gnashed our teeth like pissed-off wolverines. Now mind you, we were on our way to a place called FrostFire Mountain to dance and sing for busloads of elderly Canadian tourists, nice Manitoban couples who forked over handfuls of Loonies to see us whirl and grin like jazz-handed we needed a remedy, and fast. But what (non-chemical) salve could there be for a night of poor choices and a prickly bleary rage for which we only had ourselves to blame? WHAT WOULD SAVE BIG RIVER, THE MUSICAL FROM TURNING INTO AN IMPROMPTU SWEENEY TODD?

Eminem. That's right: the real Slim Shady. I mean, duh. Listen...Eminem knows foul. He lives it. He's a white-trash hornet buzzing in the ear of good taste and reason. I am hardly a Marshall Mathers apologist, but to everything there is a season, and the season for "Kill You" is seven a.m. in a Ford Focus with miles of highway ahead of you and three hours of sleep behind you. No matter how bad things seem, Shady understands, and not only does he understand, but he'll sample some Dido beneath your trembling angst and spin some fly rhymes about it, throw in a few f*cks and sh*ts for good measure, and offend everyone you have ever known or ever will know, just for playing!  Instant catharsis!

Applying this this line of reasoning to my current situation, I listened to the Office Space soundtrack (the only gangsta rap on my iPod...I save it for special occasions), followed by a chaser of the Replacements' "Goddamn Job" and a little Rage Against the Machine "Bombtrack"...and you know what? I didn't experience a complete bad mood turnaround, but it helped. So in a (very) roundabout way, Eminem just did a nice thing for the ladies and the gays--i.e., my coworkers who have to deal with it when I go all snarling honey badger--for I came back from my lunch break transformed into something far less threatening: say, a mildly inconvenienced raccoon. Metaphorically speaking.

Isn't life a mystery?