So This Is The Casserole My Mom Hated: Ship Wreck

My mom hated three foods: Fish, city chicken, and ship wreck. It’s no surprise she never prepared these in her own kitchen.

I never really knew what city chicken or ship wreck was, but often mentioned these foods to her because she would go on lighthearted rants about how much she hated them and they always made me giggle.

City chicken was a dish her own mother used to make (quite frequently, I take it), and she described it as skewers of chewy, dry cubes of meat. On the other hand, ship wreck was a dish her mother-in-law Jane prepared and she never actually described it so I assumed it was too horrible for words.

Imagine my surprise when I found Jane’s recipe for ship wreck in her old church cookbook. I found nine other recipes Jane had submitted to the cookbook which inspired me to embark on a journey to cook them all.

I never really knew my grandmother Jane. She had suffered a stroke that made it hard for to speak by the time we could form memories and she passed away when I was in sixth grade. Plus, my grandparents all lived out-of-state.

I do know that she loved us, as she would always give me a special figurine from her collection when we visited, and I can already gather that she loved to cook.

What better way to kick off this journey by beginning with ship wreck.

Her recipe for ship wreck is vague, like many other recipes in this old church cookbook, which meant I had to guess in places. I’m sure I will be much the same someday, as I find it nearly impossible to stick to a recipe or measure anything exactly.

Did this ship wreck actually taste like a ship wreck? Let’s find out!


1-1/2 lb. ground beef, seasoned and browned (I used 1 lb. lean ground beef and seasoned it with salt, pepper, and half a
leftover packet of Goya Sazon).
Sliced onions (about 1/2 onion)
Sliced raw potatoes (2 small organic russets)
1/2 can kidney beans
1/4 cup uncooked rice
Chopped celery, if desired (I used two small stalks)
1 can cream of tomato soup (I have no idea what this is. I used a small box of tomato bisque).

“Top with one can cream of tomato soup and enough water to cover ingredients. Bake, covered, at 350 for 1 hr.”

I used a small glass baking pan. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to layer the ingredients in that particular order, so I did, starting with the ground beef on the bottom. The recipe called for a vague amount onions and potatoes, so I used enough of each to cover one layer. I also added salt and pepper to the layer of vegetables before I added the soup.

The rice was still raw after an hour of baking, so I baked the casserole until it was tender. Eventually, I uncovered the casserole because it was too liquidy. This allowed some of the water of evaporate, but caused the tomato soup to brown.

Final Thoughts:
Jake and I both liked the casserole. I didn’t like it enough to make it again, but am planning to eat the leftovers. Like Jake said, “How bad can it be? It contains basic ingredients we like, like beans, ground beef, tomato soup, potatoes. . . I’m not sure what was so horrific about ship wreck.”

I’d also like to confess that even though I had set out to prepare the recipes exactly as written, I cheated by adding extra seasoning and am sure my grandparents didn’t have access to fancy, boxed soups.

We’ll probably never know what exactly made ship wreck such a horror for my mom. Maybe one of my relatives can shed some more light onto this mystery.

This experiment was fascinating and I’m both excited and nervous about trying the more unusual retro recipes that involve copious amounts of mayo and jello (but not together, thank goodness).


  1. Beth Ann Chiles

    Potatoes and rice in the same dish seems a little repetitive or something. Hmmmm. I have heard of shipwreck but never quite knew what was in it. I suspect it was a “staple” food and maybe that is why your mom hated it so much—had it served to her far too often??? Maybe. It does not look terrible but I doubt I would make it often. 🙂 Can’t wait for the jello/mayo concoctions.

  2. Val - Corn, Beans, Pigs & Kids

    I’m glad you made the Ship Wreck recipe. Like Beth Ann said, you Mom maybe just had it too much and that is why she didn’t like it. I’m looking forward to the rest of the recipes, mayonnaise, jello and all! Thanks for sharing this adventure with us.

  3. Robyn

    That actually looks way more appetizing than my grandma’s staple dish of browned hamburger, macaroni noodles and her own canned stewed tomatoes with a bit of salt and pepper as the only seasonings used.

    For the two years years I ate dinner at her house, that appeared about once a week and I detested it.

    • Jeni Flaa

      That sounds like what people refer to as goulash. They served something like what you described at Wartburg College for lunch and I hated it. People seemed to really like it, though.

  4. Sincerely, Jenni

    My whole family hates anything in the “casserole” category, so I know they would not like this. Like you said, it contains ingredients that everyone likes, but holy carbs and starches– potatoes AND rice? I bet that’s pretty filling!

    • Jeni Flaa

      It is a lot of carbs! I typically like casseroles. I wish this one had cheese or something in it. I’m ship wrecked out and still have half a pan.

  5. Barbara

    Cream of tomato soup is a can of Campbell’s condensed tomato soup. My mom made a lot of hotdishes when I was growing up, and cream of mushroom (or celery or chicken) soup was a frequent ingredient.

    The only hotdish I made as an adult has been tuna noodle hotdish a few times, I can’t stand casseroles!

    What a fun project to make some of those old recipes! I look forward to your continuing adventures.

    • Jeni Flaa

      Thanks for letting me know! I was wondering about if that was the case. I actually like hot dishes, though I never have eaten tuna noodle hot dish. My mom hated tuna so we never ate it. Hoping to make one or two more things this weekend.

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