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After 58 Years, Shouldn't Green Bean Casserole Retire?

Todd Patterson

Some people claim it's not Thanksgiving without a mushy green bean casserole on the table, but others - myself included - say it's time to dump this 50's era corporate concoction and come up with something healthier and better-tasting.

Back in 1955, the home economists at the Campbell Soup Company were asked to create a recipe that used the company's products for a fall food story to be published by the Associated Press.

The result was the now famous (or infamous, depending on your view) green bean casserole, a canned food extravaganza of green beans, cream of mushroom soup, and fried onions. (Obviously, this was before we had blood pressure problems and nutritionists started freaking out about the amount of sodium in canned food.)

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Although the recipe wasn't marketed as a Thanksgiving dish, by the 1960s, it had a place at the holiday table almost as important as the turkey.

The recipe has been credited to test kitchen supervisor Dorcas Reilly, who worked for Campbell's for about 40 years.

In a 2005 interview with the Associated Press, when she was 79, Reilly said she didn't remember having a hand in that specific dish, but maybe it had just slipped her mind since she helped create so many such souped-up classics, including tuna noodle casserole and tomato soup meatloaf.

In any case, it was Reilly in 2002 who presented the original hand-written recipe for the green bean casserole to the National Inventor's Hall of Fame, where it resides with other momentous creations like Thomas Edison's light bulb and Enrico Fermi's invention of the first controlled nuclear reactor, reports International Business Times.

These days, with worries about blood pressure, obesity and diabetes in the news, we're trying to be more health-conscious and rely more on fresh food. Even Campbell's has tweaked the original recipe so that it no longer calls for canned green beans, just "cooked, cut green beans" so that you can use either fresh or frozen.

In 2011, Bon Appetit magazine did a recipe smackdown to see how homemade stacked up against the canned version. They used an Alton Brown recipe vs the Campbell's-French's fried onion version and let's just say it wasn't even close.

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An even better idea is this healthier version from cookbook author and AARP contributor Pam Anderson that uses fresh vegetables and doesn't go overboard on the creamy sauce.

Or you can try this from-scratch, no-can-opener-required, green bean casserole recipe, recently posted on the food website Leite's Culinaria, from the cookbook Old-School Comfort Food by Alex Guarnaschelli. It even calls for deep-frying the onions, which is admirable but messy; I'd say sauteeing thinly sliced shallots or onions until they're golden and crisp would work just as well and use a lot less oil.

Photo by LauriPatterson/iStock

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