Blast From the Past: Shipwreck Casserole

August 9, 2012

This one’s an oldie but goodie. I thought it was the perfect response to Mamakat’s Writing Workshop this week. She asked us to describe a meal that our mother cooked–a meal that you always dreaded seeing at the table. Now there were plenty of foods I wasn’t excited to sit down to: meat loaf, swiss steak, chipped beef on toast. But this meal? The. Worst. Fate. Ever.

Enjoy, and please feel free to tell me about your childhood food nemesis in the comments section. I love to hear you talk!


In my family, when birthday time finally rolled around, it meant one thing (well, okay, two things if you include cake). Birthdays meant Total Menu Domination.

On my birthday, my mother allowed me to choose the entire dinner menu. Now of course there were a few ground rules; as in, the entire dinner couldn’t consist of dessert, and it couldn’t be something bank-breaking like lobster, but otherwise, the field was pretty open.

Actually, Total Menu Domination occurred the day before my birthday, because we always dined out on the actual day.

I think I enjoyed planning the before-Birthday dinner more than eating the restaurant one. I liked the idea of picking and choosing my then-favorites, presenting the menu to mother, and feasting on the bounty at the end.

It varied from year to year, depending on my whims. One year, it was fried pork chops, cream gravy, mashed potatoes and tomato salad. Thank goodness I was going through a growth spurt that year; that’s an ass-busting spread right there.

Sometimes it was tacos, enchiladas, guacamole. Or shrimp scampi. Or pasta primavera with real garlic bread. If Gramma Rhetta was in town, it was definitely fried chicken and cornbread.

Now Total Menu Domination is a wonderful idea. It made me feel special, and loved, and powerful to be Master of the Dinner. I buzzed in and out of the kitchen all day, watching the progress of my feast. And when it was finally done and laid on the table, I always felt a secret little rush. Total Menu Domination=cool.

Except for one leeeeeetle problem.

Every year on my sister’s birthday, she got Total Menu Domination. And my sister always picked the same hideous, nasty shit.

Inevitably, her birthday would roll around, and every year I hoped she’d pick something normal, like lasagna or steak with a baked potato. Or even, God forbid, pot roast dinner, which I didn’t much like. But no, my sister’s birthday meant the arrival of one thing: Shipwreck Casserole.

Shipwreck Casserole struck fear in my bones and made my legs itch to run far, far away. Shipwreck Casserole came from the Book. You know, The White Trash MotherLode Book. If you missed it, you can read about the Bookhere.

If you look at the ingredient list in the recipe, it doesn’t seem too bad, really. It isn’t unlike a lot of casserole recipes from the 60’s era. But I assure you, throw those ingredients in one dish and bake them together, and you have retch-o-rama on your hands. Some vile magic happened to Shipwreck Casserole while it was in the oven, and as soon as my mother pulled that freakshow out, fragrant and steaming, I’d start to gag.

My sister loved Shipwreck Casserole. She squeezed a little ketchup over the top and happily munched her way through a huge pile. For the record, that little spectacle made me gag again.

How you can raise two children with entirely different tastes is beyond me. I mean, look at the movies– I was popcorn (none of that gnarly fake butter shit on it), she was Red Vines.

I liked to know what was in my food, at all times. She would wolf down Shipwreck Casserole and chili and meatloaf, for Chrissakes, with no hesitation. It boggled my mind.

As the years pass, I wonder if my sister really loved Shipwreck Casserole as much as she did. I’m sort of thinking that maybe even she got sick of it every year. But every year she asked for it and smiled sweetly as I turned green and prayed to die.

And Sis, guess what? I’m onto you. You ordered up that meal because you liked watching me stew and fret and work myself into a complete froth the entire day. It wasn’t the food, it was the accompanying entertainment that you so enjoyed. Well, Sis, beware. I’m combing the internet for whoopie cushions, garlic gum and exploding cigarettes as we speak. Just wait…someday, you’re toast.

Shipwreck Casserole feeds 4 crazy people who don’t have the sense to gag

2 peeled baking potatoes 1 large yellow onion 2 stalks of celery, sliced salt and pepper 1 pound ground beef 1 can kidney beans, undrained 1 can tomato soup

Slice raw potatoes into a large greased casserole, spreading them to an even layer. Add a layer of onions, a layer of celery, and salt and pepper. Brown ground beef and add 1 can kidney beans. Pour into dish. Cover top of casserole with tomato soup.

Bake for an hour or more at 350 degrees.

{ 59 comments… read them below or add one }

Abby August 9, 2012 at 5:56 am

Ha! I think we all had those meals that we dreaded, although now when pressed to remember one, I’m drawing a blank. I’m a veggie now, but I was never really big on meat to begin with. Whenever my mom made something like beef roast I would smother that crap in ketchup so that I didn’t have to taste it as much. But for the most part, my mom made good food and I LOVED when it was my birthday and I could have her lasagna and chocolate cake with M&Ms on the top ;)

Now things my grandma made? A totally different story…


TKW August 9, 2012 at 3:44 pm


Do you have your mother’s lasagna recipe? I’d love it!


Tinne from Tantrums and Tomatoes August 9, 2012 at 6:54 am

Eh… ewwwwwwwwwwwwwww.
My mother is a more then decent baker but she had a knack of ruining vegetables of all kind. They where either too done and lumpy/soggy or tasted of nothing because she did not believe in seasoning with salt or pepper. Really it is a miracle I eat vegetables at all!
If I had to choose one dish it would be here zuchini casserole: slice zuchini, cover with some tomatoes, do not season at all because what person in their right mind would appreciate a little flavor and pop in the oven for an hour. Result: soggy, zucchini goop which tastes of nothing with a hint of tomatoe.


TKW August 9, 2012 at 3:45 pm


Ha! You made me cackle with the description of that nasty zucchini. Soggy zucchini should be a banned substance.


NatteringNic August 9, 2012 at 7:39 am

So her birthday present was watching you gag…yep, sounds like sisterly love to me!
*clicking in from MamaKat*


TKW August 9, 2012 at 4:09 pm


Shipwreck Casserole was proof that my sister was evil. Proof.


emily August 9, 2012 at 8:07 am

How can you deny Shipwreck Casserole? Back then, well, I don’t know if people still do this…but back then it seemed acceptable to just dump random can of whatever is in the back of the cupboard, throw some ground meat in it, put some sort of sauce on it, throw it in the over for a couple of hours, then call it dinner. YUM!


TKW August 9, 2012 at 4:08 pm


I know? What kind of crack were they feeding mothers in the 1970’s? And why did a random can of whatever (usually cream of some odd shit soup) make things suddenly palatable?


Dawn August 9, 2012 at 9:28 am

Ha! Oh, to stir up memories. Ok, we had something similar to this casserole (?) and my desire to hurl and/or run like an olympian was much like yours.

The crazy twist is,
that I like the stuff now and make it this time of year when I can’t keep up with tomato canning.

Bottom layer of ground beef, next layer of sliced potatoes, then a layer of corn and top that baby off with diced tomatoes. Just the right seasoning and its not bad…
stopping by from mama kats


TKW August 9, 2012 at 4:06 pm


Do you have kids? Will they eat this hideous concoction? I just have to know…


Katie August 9, 2012 at 11:02 am

It sounds positively awful. I would have to write about Tuna casserole with potatoe chips on top, yuck.


TKW August 9, 2012 at 4:05 pm


Who on earth thought to serve tuna HOT? Gaaaa, it’s so gross! I could never abide hot tuna. It’s fine in a sandwich, but no way could I stomach it hot. My stomach is roiling just thinking of it.


Elizabeth S. August 9, 2012 at 11:34 am

Oh man, you just described my relationship with S.O.S.– $hit on a shingle or chipped beef on toast for those not of military origins. The sauteed onions smelled so darn good, and the white sauce always seemed like it would be good, but bad things happen when you throw in a bunch of dried (!?) meat and spread that spackle on toast, which takes 3.5 seconds to become soggy and nasty. Yuck.


TKW August 9, 2012 at 4:00 pm


My mom always used that nasty, cheap, Buddig brand corned beef. Triple ewww.


The Meaning of Me August 9, 2012 at 12:05 pm

My childhood food nemesis – and I’ve often used precisely that word – was lima beans. Awful. I may have conquered them, however. I wrote about them not too long ago here –

Hated dinner of all time…creamed chipped beef on toast. Oh, wait. It might be green beans and ham and potatoes. In one pot. Nothing more. Have to stop…getting nauseous just thinking about them.

You may have inspired my next post…


TKW August 9, 2012 at 4:02 pm


Hey, fellow Shit on a Shingle hater! And I must say, lima beans suck. They just do. Does anyone like them? I doubt so.


The Meaning of Me August 9, 2012 at 5:23 pm

I have a freind who LOVES lima beans. She is my hero and my inspiration. She is so brave…


Arnebya August 9, 2012 at 12:12 pm

I didn’t think Shipwreck Casserole could be that bad until I got to the part about kidney beans. THAT was the shit that did it for me as a child. Any dish, no matter what, that had any bean other than a string bean WAS NOT GETTING EATEN. I spent many a night at the table alone because I refused to eat chili without meticulously removing every bean first. I refused to eat the corn from succotash because it had been fraternizing with lima beans. No black eyed peas on New Year’s Day. No pork and beans. The day my mother introduced liver and onions I proclaimed I was running away.


TKW August 9, 2012 at 4:04 pm


Me, too! I hated chili for that same reason. NO to the kidney beans! And no lima bean fraternization! Lima beans suck. Luckily, Mama never cooked liver. I would have run away, too.


Dawn August 9, 2012 at 4:16 pm

TKW, regarding your above question,

Yes, I have 1 out of three still home; she’s a junior in high school and she won’t go near my “layered creation” , but that aside, the three that are away at college would never eat it either
Incidentally, we used to live in Ft Collins and are planning to return as the kids have all done so. Just waiting for number four to complete high school. Ha, and you want to talk about fragrant aromas in the wind . . . (re your post on my blog) . . I must ask you this , then,, have you ever got a good whiff of Greeley when the wind is just right.


TKW August 9, 2012 at 7:47 pm


If you move to Ft. Collins (and I know, the Greeley smell is soooo bad in the winter when a low pressure weather system comes to town…we can even smell it where we live) let me know! We are too close to not meet up somewhere in the mid-way, like Loveland.


Robin August 9, 2012 at 5:00 pm

A meal that we ate at least once a week for years was liver and onions. You could not put enough ketchup on that meal to make it edible. Another food nemesis, which was my father’s favorite vegetable -Brussels sprouts. We ate that once a week, too.

This might not seem like the most awful part of any meal, but we had to have a glass of milk with dinner every night. I can’t stand milk. At my house, you could not get up from the table until you finished every drop of milk and everything my mother put on your plate (starving people around the world would be thankful for my dinner). Night after night, I would sit at the table hoping the milk would disappear, until it was warm. Then it was even more difficult to choke down. Finally, I would down the glass while holding my nose. I would gag anyway. Then, I would run to the bathroom to throw up. I do not drink milk! I had very different rules at my dinner table. If you don’t like it, go make yourself a PB&J sandwich. Drink what you like.


TKW August 9, 2012 at 7:50 pm


I f***ing hate milk! Ewww! Unctuous awful liquid. Luckily, I eat my weight in cheese, so no threat of osteoporasis (sp?) here.

I am sooo bad. If my kids won’t eat dinner, they can eat cereal instead. I will NOT admit to you how many times they choose that option. :)


Contemporary Troubadour August 9, 2012 at 7:36 pm

The shipwreck wasn’t totally abominable until the can of tomato soup — then I gagged.

I think I’ll hold off on dredging up my own memory of Mom’s worst menu specialty lest I gag again.


TKW August 9, 2012 at 7:51 pm


Whaaa? And deny us the pleasure of virtually gagging at your tale? I am dying of curiosity…


Val August 9, 2012 at 8:12 pm

Even though it probably tastes ok, I can never bring myself to make a recipe that calls for tomato soup. I have no idea why not, it just seems too weird.

We have total meal domination also. This year my 17 year old chose tater tot casserole. WTH? I’ve never even made it before. Of all the things to choose. I mean these kids love crab, lobster and the menu for home is no holds barred. She chooses tater tot casserole? As soon as we told our southern friends they invited themselves over roflmbo I made up a recipe and it turned out delicious.


TKW August 10, 2012 at 5:53 am


I’ve never heard of tater tot casserole. What’s in it? Besides tater tots, of course–which happen to be delicious!


Val August 10, 2012 at 1:10 pm

tots, 1# ground beef, onions, green peppers, 2 cans cream of mushroom soup, little bit of water and cheddar cheese. Cover bottom of 9×13 pan with tots. Cook ground beef and saute onions/peppers. Pour over tots. Pour soup over and almost one can of water. Put remaining tots on top. You want them to be on top of soup mixture so they’ll crunch up. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes, then cover with shredded cheese and bake another 10 until bubbly. So easy right?


TKW August 10, 2012 at 3:12 pm

Dear God, it sounds awful, but I loved that cheesy mac hamburger helper stuff as a kid so this would probably bliss me out. #Whitetrashfoodlover


Val August 10, 2012 at 3:24 pm

It was awesome. I can’t have dairy and I was ready to take big helpings of it. However, I grew up on hamburger gravy and rice so it’s all the old comfort food flavors for me. My mom was NOT a chef. She had about 6 things she made over and over again lol

Foodiewife August 9, 2012 at 9:17 pm

That does sound disgusting. Actually, I still hate kidney beans to this day. I always will.
My mother served this yellow curry chicken dish, as a kid. It looked like nuclear yellow. It reaked. It had raisins in it and peas. When you’re a kid, could that combo get any worse? It wasn’t until I discovered red curry, just a few years ago, that I learned that not all curries remind me of that gross dinner. Yellow curry. Yuk. I hate it.


TKW August 10, 2012 at 5:55 am


Ugh! That’s a British style curry. It’s nasty! They also sometimes put coconut and dried apricots in it. VILE stuff. I shudder just thinking about it!


Foodiewife August 9, 2012 at 9:23 pm

PS: Visions of my mother eating a full plate of chicken hearts. I’m serious. My mother LOVED fried chicken hearts. Major gag fest. I thought my mother was some sort of alien. To this day, I do not eat intestines. That includes liver, kidneys, tripe, sweetbreads (not sure if that’s intestines, but it’s an organ of some kind). I wouldn’t be able to stop myself from hurling.


TKW August 10, 2012 at 5:55 am

My mother used to eat the gizzards, fried. I think it’s a Southern thing. I thought it was so gross!


Renee K August 9, 2012 at 9:39 pm

Liver and onions still do it for me. The mere thought sends my mind spinning. I have never been a big fan of internal organs. Maybe that’s why I never made it to medical school?


TKW August 10, 2012 at 5:57 am

Renee K,

I don’t do offal, either. When I went to France, everything I ordered–even salad–seemed to have some kind of internal organ meat in it. Blech.


Jamie August 9, 2012 at 9:50 pm

We had a similar tradition in our family, and it went right down to the cake. In kindergarten, my twin sister and I decided we each wanted our OWN cake. I chose chocolate with white frosting and sno-caps, she chose white cake with pink frosting and gum-ball adornments. Of course everyone wanted the nasty ass gum cake.


TKW August 10, 2012 at 5:58 am


Gum ball cake? Nasty! I’m impressed your mother agreed to make that thing.


Kate August 9, 2012 at 10:35 pm

My mom started early. She swore I loved her liver and yogurt as a baby. Why Mama, why?
Then there were the years – YEARS – they tried to convince me I liked fish. Here’s a clue – if your child willingly drinks a shot of lemon juice or vinegar after taking the required bite, she doesn’t like it.
There was the meal my mom called ‘that eggplant goop’.


TKW August 10, 2012 at 5:59 am


Did she combine the liver and yogurt somehow? That makes me shudder. And didn’t she know that calling any food “goop” does not increase its appeal? Ha!


Maggie S. August 10, 2012 at 5:48 am

Shipwreck casserole seems to be a near cousin to something my mom made called potato patch casserole only it had mushroom soup and carrots instead of beans.

Carrots should never under any circumstances be exposed to heat.


TKW August 10, 2012 at 6:00 am

Maggie S.

Potato patch casserole sounds even worse than shipwreck casserole. Yuck! Then again, I loathe cooked carrots in any form.


Barbara August 10, 2012 at 5:57 am

That’s an oldie, all right. And agree your sister did it deliberately.
Fortunately, my mother didn’t serve anything like this and neither did I.
Still, I never met a meal I didn’t like (at least when I was a kid) but I do remember my sister HATING peas. She was forced to sit until she ate all of them. She sat there for a long time. It was mean of my mother I thought and learned a good lesson….I never made my kids eat something they hated. A taste, yes, but that was all.
Different generation. They spanked, too.


TKW August 10, 2012 at 6:04 am


Funny you should mention spanking. Mama and I were just talking about spanking yesterday. I was only spanked a handful of times, but I remember each time vividly. Mama and I agreed that it wasn’t necessarily what I did on those isolated incidents that led to the spank…it was more like “this day has been horrible and Mommy has HAD it.”

I don’t spank, but on “HAD it” days I do speak harshly to my kids. And then feel guilty, of course.

I don’t make my kids eat anything they dislike, either. Although I do encourage them to at least take a bite.


Jenna August 10, 2012 at 7:40 am

Ew . . . yeah, that sounds gross. And I have no idea how you two ended up with such different tastes. My sisters and I ended up with pretty much the same array of tastebuds, almost to a T. I can’t think of anything I like that they don’t, and vice versa. Therefore, I must conclude that your sister secretly hated it too, and just did it to spite you.


Katybeth August 10, 2012 at 11:32 am

In our house we had the Thank you bite. If you did not want more beyond the thank you bite that was fine. I don’t think food should be an issue but that’s easy to say when you have a kid that ate foie du gra by age 3. I just hosted a 12 year old kid for 10 days that ate practically nothing–not even junk food and while I was determined not to make his vacation about food I have to admit even I was getting a little worried. I couldn’t believe it when he requested Chinese food for his last dinner and order and ate Hong Kong Steak smothered in all kinds of sauce. His mother promised she was not keeping his life long desire for Hong Kong Steak a secret…so I don’t know what possessed him.
The casserole sounds awful. My mother says her brother always asked for Icky Poo on his birthday (tuna casserole) to spite her so I bet your sister was just being mean. Revenge will be SO sweet.


TKW August 10, 2012 at 1:05 pm


I’m with you. I have 1 picky eater (Miss M.) and a good eater (Miss D.) and I just refuse to make food an issue. Miss D. used to be very picky but she grew out of it. I just tell myself that Miss M. will follow suit. I give her Ovaltine in the morning and then wipe my hands clean for the rest of the day. Hopefully, more adventurous days are ahead of us.


Tiffany August 11, 2012 at 7:15 am

That. Sounds. Disgusting. She totally picked that because it made you gag. Totally.

My Mom and Dad and grandparents were are horrid cooks. I didn’t know food was even supposed to taste good until I was married. I always picked spaghetti for my birthday because…you can’t really mess up spaghetti, right?

The worst thing I ever sat down to? Salmon loaf. And not fresh salmon. Salmon from a fricking can. Oh and liver and onions.

I’ll stop now before you barf.


TKW August 11, 2012 at 1:57 pm


I already did. Gross!


elizabeth August 11, 2012 at 8:07 am

This is easy: pot roast. I used to dread Thursdays as they usually meant we were having pot roast.

Blech. ::shudders::


TKW August 11, 2012 at 1:58 pm


Pot roast=cooked carrots. Hideous.


Naptimewriting August 11, 2012 at 11:54 am

I have to be honest: I disliked all my mom’s cooking, but I didn’t hate anything enough to remember hating it. Because she was a single parent, the last thing she’d do was cook something that we refused to eat. Why bother wasting the food and energy? So we had regular, boring, healthy 70s mom food, but nothing gross.

Never thought I’d say this, but: Thanks, Mom!


TKW August 11, 2012 at 1:59 pm


I love you.


Dawn K August 12, 2012 at 4:09 am

That does sound gross. I didn’t mind any of my mom’s cooking, but am really glad she didn’t make shipwreck casserole!


Kat August 12, 2012 at 7:31 am

Total menu domination! I would have loved that!! But I have sisters too and I’ve no doubt they would have pulled this same crap on me…we were really better off skipping this tradition.


TKW August 12, 2012 at 12:35 pm


I meant to comment re: rice pudding (nasty!!) but I have been overwhelmed by the task of buying my ten-year old her first bra. I have been catatonic for days. It was horrifying.


BigLittleWolf August 12, 2012 at 11:00 am

“Total Menu Domination.” You crack me up…

I always considered myself fortunate that my mother never made some of the more traditional “American” meals of the 60s and 70s… bizarre casseroles with mystery ingredients, vegetables with mini-marshmellows, that sort of thing.

She did, however, make cauliflower with melted American cheese. Ghastly. To this day, I can’t stand cauliflower – with or without fromage of any sort.

Gag me.


Heather August 19, 2012 at 6:19 pm

My mom made that casserole EXCEPT… hers had cabbage in it :( Cooked cabbage makes me want to die. Truly die. And this pale skinned, blonde haired, blue eyed little German girl about croaked in a German household where cooked cabbage was served at Every Damn Meal… Nothing worse than coming home from church on Sunday to the detesting smell of roast beef smothered in cabbage. Ewwwww!!!


Cathy August 23, 2012 at 11:52 am

Oh my gosh – how could you not love chipped beef?! That was a luxury in our house as a kid. I do the meal thing for my boys. So does my sis. I think it’s so much better than any present.


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