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Green bean casserole: Is it on your table this Thanksgiving?

Carrie Wolff hates everything about green bean casserole, the classic Thanksgiving dish.

She said that her family in suburban Chicago has made the dish before but she has never tried it. She wasn’t even sure exactly what was in it. (The classic recipe calls for cream of mushroom soup, milk, soy sauce, black pepper and fried onions, according to Del Monte Foods.)

“Literally, I hate everything that you just listed off,” said Wolff, who lives in the Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago. “I hate milk, green beans are disgusting. Soy sauce?” She said that was weird. “Isn’t that for Chinese food?” she said. “And I like mushrooms but not in soup. I guess the onions would be good but that just sounds like a weird mixture of things.”

An estimated 30 million green bean casseroles are set to appear on Thanksgiving tables this year, according to the Del Monte Green-Bean Index. Bean counters at Del Monte, which is a prominent grower, distributor and marketer of green beans and many other vegetables, asked 1,500 Americans to rate their “fondness” for the dish.

Illinois is ranked No. 18 in the U.S. for love of green bean casserole.  Sixty one percent of residents that either really like or love the dish, according to Del Monte.

On the way home to Wisconsin for Thanksgiving, Taylor Les, 24, made a quick stop at the Lake Forest Oasis off of I-94. Les said there would be green bean casserole on the table on Thursday. “My mom is in charge of the food, so I don’t have like the secret ingredients but I know that she makes a green bean casserole,” she said.

Wisconsin is No. 2 on the Green Bean Index. “I’m not surprised,” Les said. “I know I at least have one helping every Thanksgiving. My favorite part of thanksgiving is my mom’s stuffing though. I have two helpings for sure. And the smell is absolutely amazing I can’t wait to be home just to smell the stuffing.”

Sharon Trimberg doesn’t normally share her recipes, she said. But her version of green bean casserole is “heaven on earth.”

“Some people like the regular green bean casserole, but my dad was from Wisconsin so I make my cheesy green bean casserole,” said Trimberg, who now lives in Illinois. “I take cheddar cheese and American cheese blended together, and when I think there is enough, I add a little more. Then I mix in the normal ingredients and it’s a masterpiece.

As she screwed on her her gas tank link at the station at the Oasis, Timberg said all the ingredients have to be fresh. “It’s probably not a secret family recipe, but my kids could eat it for all three meals,” she said.

Jane Schumacher, 70,  of Chicago makes a non-traditional green bean casserole for her family on Thanksgiving. Although she is familiar with the traditional recipe, she uses a family recipe from her mother-in-law. Her recipe includes green beans, bacon and a cream sauce made from scratch. It is a favorite dish among her children and grandchildren.

“I plan to cook for my family.” Schumacher said. “I probably will be having about 14 people for dinner. We will probably be watching football and play games. And some will fall asleep on the couch.”

Since Schumacher will be hosting her family this year for Thanksgiving she said she has to get up extra early to prepare the fest.

“I get up very early to wash and prepare the bird to get it in the oven,” Schumacher said. “Once that is done, everything else takes only a couple hours. It definitely takes longer to prepare than to eat. We have much to be thankful for.”

Del Monte asked state residents to rate their favorite “secret ingredient” – a single, creative item that can be added to the casserole’s iconic green bean, cream of mushroom, and French fried onion flavors to make it unique and different. The Top 5 most-wanted secret ingredients are bacon, cheese, mushrooms, bread crumbs/croutons/crackers, and almonds.

“The almond sounds the best.” Schumacher said. “It changes up a popular recipe to make it more exciting.”

Her favorite Thanksgiving dish is, “pumpkin roll,” Schumacher said, “which is a pumpkin cake with cream cheese rolled inside with walnuts on top and powdered sugar.”

Courtney Brown is a 26-year-old office worker from Chicago. Brown has been in charge of making the Green Bean Casserole for a couple years now. It’s her favorite Thanksgiving dish to make and especially eat. She never used to make it but once she learned she knew that it was her turn to make it.

Trader Joe's in the South Loop sells green beans, an obvious ingredient in green bean casserole. (Photo by Paola Martell)
Trader Joe’s in the South Loop sells green beans, an obvious ingredient in green bean casserole. (Photo by Paola Martell)

“I’ve always loved Green Bean Casserole,” Brown said. I can’t help but always have seconds or even more. It’s not only a traditional holiday dish but it’s a family tradition of having it at dinner.” Brown also goes on saying how her husband always tries to help her but she likes to make it by herself so she has complete control on how it will come out.

She always spends the holiday at her mom’s house with the rest of the family. Brown loves the holiday season and once November comes around she starts getting really excited. One tradition that her family has is that at each Thanksgiving they add a new dish to the table.

Kimmie Pahvocony, a 40-year-old Lyft driver, won’t be filling up with green bean casserole on Thanksgiving. As a Native American, Thanksgiving isn’t a holiday that her family celebrates. Instead, she looks forward to having an extra long weekend to relax with her kids.

“Every so often our family will have a big dinner together,” Pahvocony said. “But it’s usually not around Thanksgiving. Sometimes it’s in September or March, anywhere around there.”

The Oklahoma native said she has tried green bean casserole a handful of times, all of which were perfectly made by her sister.

“My sister’s version is great,” Pahvocony said. “She’s the chef of the family so she always cooks up good food for everyone. I think last time she made the casserole with kale.”

Pahvocony isn’t the only one who won’t be having green bean casserole this year. Rosa E Gomez, a 31-year old waitress and server at BeeZzee juicebar and smoothies on Wabash, isn’t in the holiday season.

“I’m not a big Thanksgiving Fan, or Christmas fan,” said Pahvocony of Chicago. “I still don’t even know what we’re doing yet with my family. I just don’t like spending money.”

Sonja Perdue has heard of the casserole but can’t stand it.

“I hate it,”  Perdue said. The 59 year-old social media manager and trainer from Chicago was waiting for a bus on South State Street, and waiting for an explanation for why green bean casserole even exists.

“I don’t even know why they make it,” she said. “We have so many other food choices. Why do we need it? I don’t need it. Bring me something else.”

Perdue was not surprised when she heard Illinois has recently been ranked the #18 state for lovers of the traditional Thanksgiving dish, however. “[There’s] something wrong with people in Illinois anyway. Rauner is governor now and Quinn before. They would like it. They seem like green bean people.”

“They do that a lot these days,” she said. “Putting food together that’s not supposed to go together.

When asked what she would be eating this holiday season, Perdue spoke favorably of white meat turkey and white coconut cake.

Noosha Elami, 24, employee at FruVé in the South Loop, almost never has green bean casserole.

“Sweet potato casserole is huge with my family, ” she said.

Her mother’s sweet potato casserole is the most important dish at her dinner.

“It’s like dessert but you have it at dinner,” she said. “It’s crunchy and has like a million pounds of sugar. It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving at my house without it.”

Robert Shipe, 34, who works in retail, takes a simple approach.

“I steam them, mix them with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper and garlic,” he said. “It’s just quick, easy, simple and delicious.”

Sitting on the southbound Red Line train, Mariana Gonzalez and her husband, Geo, talked about their Thanksgiving plans.

“I’m not too much of a green bean fan, he is though,” she said.  “I’d like to make it for him though. I just can’t cook at all.”

They are originally from Arizona, but said they weren’t traveling because it was too expensive. They were cuddling on the train and looked content celebrating the holiday at home.

Frannie Leurs who was on her way to a Thanksgiving hotel party has mixed views on green bean casserole was happy to tell what she about it.

“It’s great for the modern cooks because it’s just a put together thing,” Leurs said. “I eat it because my son likes it.”

At Trader Joe’s in the South Loop,  Dawn Warren, a 52-year old health-care worker from Chicago, said she doesn’t care much for green bean casserole; however, she has a special turkey recipe.

“I remove the skin, and then I take the dark meat and I confie it in duck fat,” Warren explained. “I then I butterfly the breast, and then once the confie is finished, I debone it and then pack it in with the skin.”

Cara Lashmet, 42, from Springfield, was also shopping at Trader Joe’s for Thanksgiving preparation. She, too, bypassed the green beans. “I’m not doing it,” she said of the signature dish. “Someone else is in charge.”

But her family would have the casserole as it does every year, she said.

“I love it because it brings nostalgic comfort, and it’s simple to make,” Lashmet said. “I don’t need a recipe for it.”

Audrey Sutherland, Maya Bernard, Stephanie Oster, Paola Martell, Eninna Solache, Lee Bosch, Teddie Hill, Kathleen Darling, Gaby Gonzalez, Weston Pagano and Gabrielle Brown contributed to this story.

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