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.
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).