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Midwest foods cure the blues

Updated: Mar 24, 2020

By Nina Mukerjee Furstenau

FAYETTE, Missouri-- In not-so-breaking news from the Midwest: casseroles cure the blues. I see this happen in person at most family gatherings when we feast. You can't step away without fulfillment. Midwest fixings for feasting include a range of goodies of course: sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes and gravy, Jello salads, seven-layer salads, pies, cakes, and more, after which, all through the living room, sofa springs will sigh in contentment. Wait, that is usually me.

But family feasting is not always available, and so, if I had a casserole to share today, it would be something warm and soft, something also fast, easy, like mac and cheese. It seems like a type of panacea.

I had a homemade version once at a friend's sleep-over growing up in Kansas. And yes, the warm cheese and the soft noodles all added up to a good time at the table for us pre-teens.

There's trendy restaurants that serve things like this--simple toast with special smears, mac and cheese with fancy additions. It must mean something, this yearning for simple foods served up on white plates under high ceilings and exposed pipes. In places that echo a little.

I've been absent from this post series for a few months and have missed the check-in it creates. But you see, times they are a changing. I've watched these past few weeks, verging on months now, loved ones reduce their conversations to what if anything they were able to eat or drink at mealtimes. A bite of this, a sip of that.

You can't taste at a distance. It takes an intimate engagement. You can hear, see, touch, and think all alone, but taste seems always in concert with others. Even when that engagement happens more often than you like over a telephone.

Our first foods were soft ones. We go back to those again. And that early taste, the folding in of soft good care, sustains. Warm up a casserole and see if this isn't so.

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Andrew, it's funny that I don't really. My family was not much for them and that's probably why I remember that teenage mac and cheese dish so clearly. Now, if I make a "casserole," it involves eggplant, stewed tomatoes, olive oil and grated Parmesan. Comfort and yumminess all in one dish. At our family gatherings, the dish most wanted by me is my mom's sweet potato, Spanish peanut, and maple syrup Thanksgiving wonder.


Andrew Twaddle
Andrew Twaddle
Mar 27, 2020

Just wondering if you had a favorite casserole dish other than mac and cheese.

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