Green Bean Casserole: A Thanksgiving Memory of a Lost Friend

My friend Bev is dead. She’s been gone for 10 years. Sometimes it seems like less, like she was just there yesterday. Sometimes it seems like more, particularly because so much has happened since then. I’ve lived in two different cities since then. I’ve gotten married. I’ve had two kids. It feels wrong that Bev never met my husband or my kids.

One of the greatest regrets of my life is not taking more time to be with Bev before she died. Instead of letting that regret overwhelm me I try to focus on the memories I have of my friend. The following is one that I am always reminded of this time of year.

I used to have Thanksgiving dinner with Bev’s family and usually another friend or two. My friend Jay, who was Bev’s husband and why I knew her, would always make “parsnip snoop” (parsnip soup) that was served out of a turkey-shaped tureen. Other than that our menu was pretty traditional: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce.

Something that was not on the menu was green bean casserole. One day Bev and I were discussing how we had never even eaten green bean casserole, at least not the green bean and canned cream of mushroom soup concoction topped with fried onions that women’s magazines made seem such a staple of the American Thanksgiving meal. Bev decided to make a green bean casserole that year so that we could try it.

That Thanksgiving we enjoyed our bowls of parsnip snoop, then moved on to the rest of the meal. In addition to the usual items was this green bean casserole, looking just like it does in the advertisements that promote its recipe and the processed foods that make up its ingredients. We each included a bit of this gloopy example of Americana on our plates. We each tried it. It was awful.

I don’t think it was Bev’s fault that it was awful. It tasted like what it was: green beans in canned cream of mushroom soup topped with fried onions. I know that some people like green bean casserole. (Or, at least, I assume they do. Why else do they keep making it?) It just was not to our liking. It became a joke.

“Are you sure you don’t want more green bean casserole?” someone would say, and we would all laugh.

I guess you had to be there. And you probably would have had to have been drinking as much wine as we were. Bev was always partial to Merlot. She died before the movie Sideways could mock her for that.

This holiday season be thankful for every moment you get to spend with family and friends, and be thankful for the memories you make even if they as simple as laughing about a mutual dislike of green bean casserole. I am spending Thanksgiving with friends. I know someone is bringing green bean casserole. I probably won’t have any.

Jay and Bev

That’s Jay and Bev. I recently found an old disposable camera and got the film developed. The film had degraded over time. Some of the pictures were barely distinguishable. The color of everything had a strange blue tint, but this was by far the best picture of bunch. It was a happy surprise that made me smile. I miss you, Bev.

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