Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Yellow Alert

My more fanatical readers (and you'd have to be pretty fanatical to consider yourself a "reader" of a blog that is so narrowly-focused and cranky--not to mention that it only gets updated about once every six weeks) will recall that in these ruminations, I have been known to speculate on some fairly deep issues. Such as, say, the geo-political basis of the American main dish casserole.

Well, call me Chicken Little, but it appears to me that the situation is very grave. It appears that open warfare is about to break out. America--and America's casseroles--are being invaded.

Am I overreacting? I think not. Because upon flipping through Pass The Plate, (which again, my fanatical readers will recognize as one of my favorite community cookbooks), I found not one, but two extremely suspicious-looking dishes residing within mere pages of each other.

Now, one of these casseroles could be considered an aberration. But two? A close examination of the ingredients leads me to believe that it is not just people in Tibet who should be concerned about a military build-up in China.

Need proof? Fine. First, I offer Betty Simon's (Mrs. Donn L.)'s

African Chow Mein

which amazingly enough, contains not a single ingredient indigenous to Africa. Although it does contain actual soy sauce. So, naturally, this begs the question: why "African" Chow Mein? Could this be some kind of blind? Or are African ingredients some sort of gustatorial "Ligne Maginot?" Did Africa simply crumble at the idea of being invaded by China? Read on and judge for yourself:

2 cups boiling water

1 pound hamburger
1 (10 ounce) can cream mushroom soup or golden mushroom soup

3 small onions, chopped
1/3 cup soy sauce

1 cup celery, diced
3/4 cup uncooked rice

Note: Variations are: 1 can drained mushroom, toasted slivered almonds or 1/2 can water chestnuts sliced thinly.

(And don't think I don't notice what the inclusion of these "variations" ingredients do to the balance of power, mmmk?)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brown together in a little butter using a large frying pan the hamburger, onions, and celery. Add rice, water, soup and soy sauce and put into large buttered casserole and bake covered for 1/2 hour. Stir and bake uncovered for additional 1/2 hour.

You might be thinking, "for Pete's sake, Poppy--control yourself. It's just another goofy recipe. Cut it out with the conspiracy theories." Well, while I was puzzling over my usual issues, for example, what, exactly, makes this particular dish connote "Africa" to the culinary sophisticate, in turning over a few pages, I discovered

Italian Goulash

in which the citizens of Italy and Hungary have obviously being invaded by The Yellow Peril. To wit:

1 1/2 pounds ground round steak
1 (10-ounce) can tomato soup

3 strips bacon
1 (16-ounce) can spaghetti

4 medium onions, chopped
1 (16-ounce) can spaghetti sauce with mushrooms

4 stalks celery, chopped
1 (8-ounce) can water chestnuts, sliced thin

1 (16-ounce) can Chinese Vegetables, drained
1 (5-ounce) can Chinese noodles (more if desired)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon parsley
Grated cheese

Fry bacon and save for garnish. Add onions and beef to bacon grease and brown. Add tomato soup and sauce with mushrooms. Add green pepper and celery and cook until slightly tender. Add spaghetti, Chinese vegetables, water chestnuts and season with Worcestershire sauce and parsley. Salt to taste. Serve on Chinese noodles and top with grated cheese and bacon. Yield: 8 servings

Italian? Goulash? HA! As if. Eugenia Hofler Clement (Mrs. Robert L.), you ought to be ashamed of yourself! Did you think I wasn't going to notice your perfidy?

Ma'am, I'm going to be honest with you: sneaking all those Chinese ingredients into an Italian Goulash is treacherous and frankly, unAmerican.

For the rest of you--be on the lookout for any more signs of a culinary invasion. And if you find McDonald's starting to hand out packets of soy sauce with their fries, please, alert the authorities.