A Southern Casserole at a New York Thanksgiving

The coronavirus pandemic made it impossible to spend the holiday with her family down South. So, she decided to bring a little Southern comfort to her northern celebration.

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Posted in , Nov 24, 2020

A Southern Casserole at a New York Thanksgiving

Broccoli. Check. Eggs. Check. Cheese. Check. Mayonnaise. Check. I compiled all the ingredients for the broccoli casserole my grandma makes every year. This year I wouldn’t just be making it all by myself for the first time— I’d be eating it with an entirely different family.

Because of Covid-19, my boyfriend and I decided not to travel down South to see my family. I knew it was the right call, but I still felt sad. Thanksgiving just didn’t feel the same without my South Carolina Grandma’s turkey, stuffing, and casseroles. My boyfriend’s parents invited us to spend Thanksgiving with them in Pelham, New York, not far from where we live in Brooklyn. I was excited and when they asked if I planned to bring a dish, I knew exactly which one: Grandma’s broccoli casserole.

It seemed like such an obvious pick at the time, but now I was nervous. I’d never made this casserole before. Could I pull it off? I remember how my boyfriend gawked when I told him how much mayonnaise went in this Southern dish. Would his northern family even like it?

I preheated the oven then started mixing the ingredients into a big bowl. The recipe was simple enough. As I worked, I thought about how I hadn’t seen Grandma at all this year because of Covid and now it would be the same for the holidays. I was excited to spend time with my boyfriend and his parents. They are always so warm and welcoming. But this would be my first holiday season up North. The warm weather and comfort foods of the South felt farther away than ever.

I scooped the casserole filling into the pan and added the breadcrumb crust. As I tried to make more space on my tiny kitchen counter, I thought about my Grandma’s kitchen. The brick floor. The blue plaid wallpaper.  The snowman figurines in the window. The walls covered in decorative baskets. It might seem like an odd kitchen to some, but to me it was homey. There was always something delicious smelling in the oven or on the stove.

I finished up the casserole and put it in the oven. I started the timer, sat at my kitchen table and waited. As the casserole cooked, the most amazing smell started to drift through the room. It was warm and buttery and comforting. For a moment, I wasn’t in my tiny Brooklyn apartment kitchen. I was transported to that cozy Southern kitchen, with the brick floor and the decorative baskets. I could almost hear my Grandma calling us to dinner.

The timer went off and I pulled the casserole from the oven. It smelled good and looked good, but had I pulled off the taste? I took a small bite from the corner. It was perfect. Just like Grandma’s. I wrapped it up in tin foil and put it in the fridge, ready for Thanksgiving Day. I hoped my boyfriend’s parents would like it. I’d call my Grandma later tonight to tell her how it turned out and tell her I wished I could be with her this holiday. But thanks to the magic of a casserole, it felt like we were together anyway.

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