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Ooh, It's So Good

the humble church cookbook contains many hidden pleasures

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by Mike Paulus illustrated by Beth Czech

It’s getting colder, and if you’re like me, that means it’s time to eat more. There’s no way around it, people, just give in and start eating. Many of you call this time of year “Autumn,” but I call it “Casserole Season,” and I’m here to tell you that things have gotten out of hand in the world of casseroles. I believe we’re living in a unique time, a time when casserole recipes have exploded in diversity. For whatever reason, the stuff people are turning into casseroles seems to have grown exponentially.

You’ve got taco casserole, pizza casserole, chow mein casserole, and cheeseburger casserole. There’s scalloped potato casserole, green bean casserole, falafel casserole, and buffalo wing casserole with blue cheese dressing. And what about gyro casserole, Monte Cristo casserole, chicken salad sandwich casserole, and Prosciutto Panini casserole? There’s even lasagna casserole. Isn’t lasagna already a casserole? What the hell?

Feeding this insanity is the humble church cookbook. I must confess that my wife and I harbor a minor obsession with small town church cookbooks. They are hilarious and awesome, and at times, they have good recipes in them.

Now, Midwestern cuisine has been widely ridiculed, to the utter delight of Garrison Keillor and other blatantly un-Midwestern people. So I won’t bore you with jokes about unhealthy amounts of mayonnaise (sweet, sweet delicious mayonnaise) or the unthinkable variety of foods we call “salad.” Instead, I’ll just tell you why we like small town cookbooks.

The best part is that recipes are usually contributed directly by parishioners. On one hand, it’s cool to see a group of people’s favorite recipes gathered together – the best of the best from well-meaning, good-hearted folks. On the other hand, it’s hilarious to imagine stories about those people, especially the ones that seem to have contributed well over half of the recipes because they’re an overbearing, frilly blouse-wearing, control freak church lady.

I’m talking about you, Millie Knutson.

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