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Comfort Food: Tuna Casserole

Grandma lived in the country and she had an outhouse instead of an indoor bathroom.  When we visited it was nerve-wracking, walking through the grass with a flashlight in the dark.
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We spent hours playing on the back porch, cooking mudpies in the wonderful assortment of old tin dishes and gadgets from a box stored in the smokehouse.   There was a beautiful mimosa tree that spread its fern branches and fuzzy pink flowers over the side yard, and soft green moss underfoot by the gate. Children remember these things, you know.
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We were fascinated with our grandparents’ everyday rituals.  We would gather around the old kitchen table to watch Grandpa shave with an old-fashioned straight razor.  He would use a brush to work up a foamy lather in a special shallow dish, and then expertly shave his whiskers while we stared.  At bedtime, Grandma would release her waist-length hair from its bun, then brush and braid it while we watched wistfully.  I think they both secretly enjoyed the admiration and wonder.
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Certain foods bring back memories of Grandma’s house.  Fried potatoes and Moon Pies were always served when we visited.  And sweet tea, the kind with a layer of sugar left in the bottom of the goblet.  Grandma had two kinds of goblets:  plain rose-colored ones and clear ones with a golden edge and an etched grape design. Eventually I started a collection of these goblets and accessories and we use them for holidays and special occasions:
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The best memories of all were sitting on the back porch on summer nights singing Froggie Went a-Courtin’ and snuggling under layers of quilts near an open window in the tiny bedroom, where we could hear the cows and the deliciously scary sounds of coyotes in the distance.
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These recollections have stirred up a question in my mind:  What memories will my children and grandchildren carry into adulthood?  
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It’s odd to think they will remember the ordinary things like dishes and corners in the yard, shaving and reading aloud.  Sure, vacations and major events will fit in the picture, but the “feel” of childhood will consist of impressions of everyday activities and meals.  Their favorite comfort foods will be the meals served on weekday nights, on ordinary dishes.
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One of those childhood comfort foods will be our recipe for Tuna Casserole.  Years ago I made this dish with canned cream-of-something soup and then I discovered how easy it was to make my own white sauce.  It’s a casserole that has stood the test of time and visiting children.  Even those who eyed it with suspicion were surprised at how delicious it tasted.  It’s one of the meals requested by grown children when they come home.
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Tuna Casserole

1 stick butter
½ cup flour
salt and pepper
chicken boullion granules
16 oz. egg noodles
2 cans water-packed tuna
grated cheese
crushed crackers or potato chips, optional
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Bring water to boil for noodles in a large pan. Meanwhile, melt butter in saucepan. When it is melted, stir in flour with a slotted spoon to make a smooth paste. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir 6 teaspoons chicken boullion into 5 cups water and add to butter and flour mixture. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens slightly. Drain two cans of tuna and add to sauce. Stir in a handful of grated cheese.
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Cook the noodles until they are tender.  Drain noodles and pour into 11 x 13 glass dish. Pour sauce over noodles and gently stir until the sauce is evenly distributed. Cover with grated cheese. Top with crushed saltine crackers or potato chips if desired. Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes, until golden brown and bubbly.
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This comfort-food casserole goes well with any number of side dishes, but it goes best with a warm welcome, laughter and the memory-making of ordinary days.
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4 Comments

  1. Charlotte,

    This so took me back to my Grandma Cunha’s two story home of years ago. I can see the small ceramic dogs and cats sitting on her mantle. If memory serves me they were Siamese cats with rhinestone-studded collars. Sitting with her at the kitchen table we always ate her cereal, Special K for breakfast. It wasn’t our favorite mainly because it wasn’t sugar coated! lol But, your story really brought back memories I haven’t thought of in years, nice memories.

    Finally, you are right about the kids and grand-kids…what memories will they carry about us? I hope I leave them laughing and wanting to share their special memories just like I am now. Thank you for who you are, what you share and for being a friend.

  2. Thank you!  I can’t usually eat creamed soups because of MSG content (gives me migraines) — so, perhaps reducing the bouillon, I think this is something I could do!

  3. Did you ever make buttered bread crumbs by putting homemade whole wheat bread and soft butter in the blender?  Those take really really good, and you can even use store brought bread…stale bread works great!  I love your recipes and helpful ideas.

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