Where I grew up, people served casseroles. I can’t remember My-Mother-The-Dowager-Duchess ever serving one; clearly it wasn’t her specialty. But if she ever did make a meal in one of those large, deep dishes used for both cooking and serving, she most definitely would have called it a casserole (from the French word for saucepan). Casserole is what people called it in the City of New York.
In Spain, they have cazuelas. Same word origin. Different ingredients. But, cazuelas are easily recognizable as casseroles.
In South Dakota, where San Geraldo grew up, they served “hot dish” (vocal emphasis on the word “hot”). The first time I heard the term was when I met Jerry’s parents (who lived in southwestern Minnesota at the time). We were going over to his aunt’s house in nearby Sioux Falls, South Dakota, one afternoon and we had to bring some food. Jerry’s mother, Alice, said everyone was bringing “hot dish.” I thought that was odd and I was confused by the lack of a pronoun before “hot dish.” It wasn’t “a hot dish,” it was simply “hot dish.” That’s when San Geraldo (just plain Jerry at the time) explained to me what “hot dish”was. I then explained to him that what they really meant was “a casserole.” That wasn’t the first time he thought New Yorkers had a very strange way of speaking. “It’s a hot dish,” he said. “Why not just call it hot dish?” Hmmm.
Since then I have been to many pot-luck suppers where everyone has brought hot dish. Hot dish is popular at picnics, barbecues, and before and after funerals. I also learned over the years that there is everyday hot dish — like mac ‘n cheese or tuna or “weiners” (which my family called frankfurters or hot dogs) — and good-company hot dish, such as “Five-Can Hot Dish,” which is very gourmet because it includes chow mein noodles. I know you’re all dying to try it now. Luckily, Jerry came across his mother’s old recipe the other day. Remember: If the guests are good enough for Five-Can Hot Dish, you’ll have to put out the fancy guest towels in the bathroom…. and make sure the kids don’t use them. They’re for company!
|“FIVE-CAN HOT DISH.” FOR THOSE VERY SPECIAL OCCASIONS.|
Sadly, many South Dakotans have gotten uppity since Jerry left town all those years ago. Now, hot dish is more often called “casserole.” Jerry came across another dish in Alice’s recipe box. It’s listed as “Hot Dish — Penny Casserole.” It’s likely it’s a later recipe when South Dakotans were switching over to the word casserole. I don’t get the impression it’s for good company. But what do I know? I grew up in New York. The ingredients include one-and-a-quarter pounds of “spuds” and 10 “weiners” (cut up), and of course there’s the obligatory can of cream of mushroom soup.
|A HOT-DISH STAPLE.|