“Chicken” Casserole

Tonight I made a throwback casserole. A casserole with a history and a funny backstory.

I was in college at the University of California at Santa Barbara and was visiting a friend at her house in Bonita, California about 4 hours away. We had gone home for the weekend and her Dad had made dinner.

We sat down with a salad, drink and the casserole. It looked great- no matter what, home cooking beat college dorm food any day. As I began to eat, I realized it was a familar taste. Noodles, peas, creamy sauce and “chicken.” Something my mom made often. Something I liked very much. It had a great topping of breadcrumbs and butter.

As I ate, I mentioned that my mom also made “chicken” casserole and it was one of my favorites. Laura and her Dad looked at me strangely and said, “This is not chicken casserole, it is tuna casserole.”  No, I said, it was the same as my Mom made and she made it with chicken. They chuckled. I pondered.

We finished dinner and I made a phone call. “Mom?…” When I shared the events of the evening, I heard a raucous laughter from the other side of the phone. My mom had been feeding me a lie all of these years. “Tuna tastes like chicken,” she said through her laughter.

Ok, she got me. I was a tuna hater, but was I? So tonight, when I made TUNA casserole, I told my daughter the truth. She won’t have a great story to tell, but at least she will know she likes tuna.

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