Picture it: Thanksgiving, circa 1990. The table filled the entire room and overflowed with guests, so many that looking back all I remember is a blur of noise and food and endless pies. But in that blur, one thing stands out: green bean casserole. The white ceramic crock, crisp and brown on top. The layer of crunchy onions that sheltered a grotesque tangle of green beans and partially congealed mushroom soup. Okay, it wasn't the prettiest food on the table, but I didn't care. I was in side-dish-love.
They say you can't talk about religion at the dinner table. They say forget about politics, forget about controversy, and if Miss Manners were more prolific these days, I'm sure there would be a new rule that toxic chemical exposure is off limits. Who wants to find out their shampoo is poisonous or their chemicals legislation is flimsy when they're enjoying their second slice of pie?
But if there's one thing you can talk about, it's food. And this year, when we talk about green bean casserole, we'll be talking about more than its overwhelming deliciousness. Green bean casserole is a toxic minefield, composed of a laundry list of over-processed, canned ingredients. But instead of abandoning it this year, I decided to give it a non-toxic makeover. And all I did was apply a couple easy rules that can be applied to any of your favorite Thanksgiving fare:
Swap canned soup for boxed soup: BPA is an unfortunate condiment when it comes to canned soups. So opt for boxed soup and reduce your BPA exposure.
Swap canned vegetables for fresh or frozen organic produce: Buying your produce in bulk, or choosing a frozen alternative, can make this even more affordable.
Switch out a nonstick pan: Sometimes, you can't throw everything away. So how about this instead -- think about what recipes you cook the most, and what cookware you use for those dishes, and focus on replacing that cookware. That way the foods you eat the most will also be the foods cooked in the healthiest way.
Toxic chemicals are exhausting. They're in our homes, our workplaces, our favorite kitschy holiday foods: It never ends. And maybe that's the only way to talk about it. I know I won't be the only person at my Thanksgiving table who has been disappointed to find toxic chemicals in a favorite product, piece of furniture, or food. This non-toxic recipe is delicious, but we need to makeover more than our side dishes: We need to make over our chemicals legislation. So if you're looking for a way to bring up chemicals reform this Thanksgiving, try this recipe, or give your own favorite food a non-toxic makeover, and get the conversation going.
Non-toxic Green Bean Casserole*
2 cups green beans
1 ½ cups (boxed!) creamy mushroom soup
¼ cup parmesan cheese
⅔ cup Brown Rice Krispies
1 tbsp. olive oil
¼ cup Fflour
Salt and pepper to taste
1) Chop up an onion into long thin slices. Toss the onion in one tablespoon of olive oil until thoroughly coated, then toss it in a little less than a quarter cup of all purpose flour, until fully coated. Disperse them evenly over a cookie sheet, then give them a liberal shake of salt and pepper. Pop them in a 375 degree oven and take them out when they start to brown.
2) Wash and chop up about two cups of cooked, fresh (or frozen) green beans.
3) Take 2/3 cup of brown rice krispies and smash them until they're very fine. You can also smash in some ground flax, to give them more color and a richer flavor.
4) Put the green beans in a casserole dish and add just under 1 and ⅔ cups of mushroom soup. Stir in bread crumbs and fresh grated parmesan cheese.
5) Pop the casserole in a 350 degree oven for 25 minutes. Top with onions, and optional additional parmesan cheese. Bake for an additional 5-8 minutes.
*Measurements are approximate, adjust as desired!
And when your green-bean-casserole-converts ask you for the recipe, make sure to pass this along too:
The Toxic Chemical Safety Act (H 5820 )/ Safe Chemicals Act (S 3209)
1) Our chemicals legislation has not changed since 1976, leaving us exposed to the potentially dangerous side effects of thousands of chemicals. And it's not just through kooky, once-a-year holiday foods: it's through your shampoo, your school supplies, your canned goods, and more.
2) We don't have to live in a world where eating a bite of green bean casserole, or taking a shower, or cleaning our homes exposes us to dangerous toxic chemicals. We have a chance to make a change by telling Congress how important it is to update the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976. We can't protect our kids and families from toxics without the help of federal legislation. To gain real MOMentum on this important issue, we need your help. Tell Congress that it's time to get serious about TSCA!
This blog is part of the Peaceful Revolution series that explores innovative ideas to strengthen America's families through public policies, business practices, and cultural change. Done in collaboration with MomsRising.org, read a new post here each week.