This recipe isn’t awful, per se, but there are elements to it that are consistent with many of the mid-century casserole dishes I’ve come across. Take tin of tuna, add some frozen peas to it, and mix in can of mushroom soup, and voila!, you’ve got dinner!I’m actually impressed that the recipe uses curry, as many of the dishes seem downright afraid of seasoning of any sort (calling for a few grains of pepper, or a drop of pickle juice, etc). This recipe book (Better Homes and Gardens: Jiffy Cooking, 1967) is especially geared towards convenience, thus a focus on ingredients which could be found in a typical mid-century North American cupboard without a special trip to the store.
I mean, let’s imagine you’re a Betty Draper-esque housewife in 1967. Let’s imagine that you’ve spent a few too many hours imagining Paul Newman … and Paul Newman’s electrifying blue eyes. And Paul Newman’s strong, toned body pressing you up to the wall. And Paul Newman’s hands: one wrapped in your hair as his mouth descends to cover yours; the other hand gripping your waist, the only thing keeping your trembling knees from giving out then and there. And Paul Newman’s firm … Wait! Was that the door? Awww crap! The kids are home from school! What will you do for supper? You can’t go grocery shopping now that the little hellions are back, and you need to have dinner on the table by the time your non-Paul Newman husband is home from work. You look in the cupboard. What do you have? Hmmm… Mushroom soup, a can of tuna, some rice, a jar of curry powder that your hippy neighbour gave you last year, a bag of frozen peas in the freezer. Do you have a recipe that calls for all these items? Why, yes! Yes, you do! And you’ll be able to make that meal in only about 20 minutes, so you can kick the kids out into the backyard while you perfect your Paul Newman fantasy and still have plenty of time to get dinner ready! Hooray for Jiffy Cooking!
Unlike Paul Newman’s face, Curried Tuna and Peas casserole doesn’t benefit from aesthetics. It can’t be bothered and doesn’t give a damn! The peas and chunks of tuna are just kind of suspended in the creamy yellow goo, and the smell of curry is constantly battling it out with the smell of tuna. I don’t know about you, but tuna and curry are not tastes I’d ever considered combining before I found this recipe. It doesn’t taste too bad, though, and it gets the job done. My significant other, (who usually takes one tiny, wimpy bite of my experimental foods and then hides under a pile of coats until the rest of the dish is gone) ate a sizeable portion of this, and then went back for seconds. If you ever ate Tuna Helper when you were a kid, it tastes a lot like that … only with curry. This actually reminds me of some of the foods I ate when I first moved out on my own.
Also, please take this opportunity to do a image search for pictures of Paul Newman from the ’50s and ’60s. You’re welcome.
Curried Tuna and Peas
Blend 1/2 cup of milk into one 10 1/2 -ounce can condensed cream of mushroom soup. Add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon curry powder and heat to boiling. Carefully stir in one 6 1/2- or 7-ounce can of tuna, drained, and 1 cup frozen peas. Cover and simmer 5 minutes. Serve over hot cooked rice. Makes 4 servings.
A version of this post originally appeared in Jen R. L. Disarray’s blog, Maybe We Shouldn’t Be Eating This. Jen has a broken arm, so until it improves a bit more, she’s cross-posting a few of her favorite recipes from the previous year.
Jen was once described as a "culinary anthropologist". She liked that. When she is not making questionable foods, Jen enjoys reading, sassing, and lurking all over the internet. Jen has a blog called Maybe We Shouldn't Be Eating This, and she is a contributor to the Geekquality podcast and blog.