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the TNC Chronicles: a History of Mother-Daughter Strife & an Insistently Delicious Meal

On Tuesday night I made a meal for dinner I haven't cooked in ages. Eons. Nearly a lifetime. I knew without a doubt that none of my children would like it, and they did not exceed my expectations. Kaleb flat out refused to try even a bite ("but it's got greeeeeeeeen thingeeeeeeeeees!"), Jake took exactly three bites, and Nathan managed about half his serving. Haley was gleeful to be at a sleep over and avoid the whole mess. Kendell, however, was simply gleeful, because this is one of his favorite meals:

Tuna noodle casserole.

The old-fashioned kind: egg noodles, cream of mushroom soup, sour cream, frozen peas, canned mushrooms, generous amounts of pepper and a handful of dried onion. Oh, and the tuna of course. Topped with buttered breadcrumbs and served steaming hot.

I don't know—is tuna noodle casserole as disgusting as my children think it is? Because I love it, which of course begs the question of why I've made it perhaps only three times in the 18 years we've lived in our house. (It also begs the question "how in the hell am I old enough to have lived in this house longer than I lived in the house I grew up in?" but, well...I guess I AM that old!) Cooking this delicious bit of newlywed culinary nirvana reminded me of the answer to that question, which is a little story.

I call it newlywed food because tuna noodle casserole was one of my staples when I was a brand new wife.There were four dishes I nearly always had the ingredients for: chicken & brown rice, spaghetti, manicotti (thanks for the recipe Chris! I still make it exactly like you taught me!), and TNC. As the spaghetti wars actually commenced before we got married (should that have been a sign???) I really only had three dishes I felt comfortable and confident in making.

We ate TNC often.

That didn't matter much, because Kendell and I both loved it. I always made biscuits to go with (I make some mean biscuits!) and served a Diet Coke and a Pepsi, respectively. We were happy in our newlywedded, TNC bliss.

Then, after a year, we bought a building lot, found a contractor, and started building our house. (Yes, the one we still live in.) To help us survive the cost of building said house, we gave up our newlywed apartment (the one that, seriously, had a heart-shaped jacuzzi in it, which is much less romantic than it sounds as it had the unfortunate tendency to occasionally become the repository of the rest of the apartment complex's backed-up sewage I kid you not) and moved back in with my parents for the duration of the construction. Our agreement was to split the utilities and the food preparation.

Oh, the stories I could tell from that time! Not all of them involve the unfortunate placement of the bathroom much too near the stairs, but at least one of them does. Suffice it to say: Kendell has a red personality. My mother has a red personality. Know what you get when you combine two red personalities? Lots of fire.

It was a long nine months.

But I didn't realize how *I* was feeding the fire until I overheard a telephone conversation between my mom and my sister. My mom's side (the only one I could hear) went a little bit like this: "and I swear, if she makes one more tuna noodle casserole I'm going to lose my mind."


I kind of lost my enthusiasm for TNC after that. Now that I can look back on that time and see the humor in it, I also find myself a little bit wistful. I wish my mom and I could have had the kind of relationship wherein she recognized that I was a little bit on the pathetic side as far as my cooking skills went. I wish she had taken me under her wing and nurtured me, and remembered that I was, after all, only 21 years old. I wish we would have spent some time in the kitchen talking about cooking.

Maybe it wouldn't be so hard for me, still, to figure out the answer to the daily, exhausting, frustrating, doomed-to-always-be-asked question: What's for dinner?

But last night, for whatever reason, the answer was TNC. And it was still delicious. I still, despite my children's naysaying and my mom's annoyance, make a fine tuna noodle casserole. I might even make another one in the next half-decade or so, just to stay on top of my game.


Becky K

I don't remember this dish. Did you make it when I lived there, too? Hm. It sounds good, but I can imagine all three of the people I live with not wanting to eat it.

I remember your heart-shaped tub. I thought it was so cool!


I made TNC recently and realized I don't like it. What a sad day. I was raised on the stuff, and it is my dad's absolute favorite.

And just for the record, I have a red personality.

Pamela K.

Okay, I want you to post your recipes for biscuits and tuna noodle casserole. Even though I have made both, I still could use yet another recipe for them. I think I know what will be on the dinner menu next week.;-)


My daughter is not much of a meat eater (unless I manage to mix it with a lot of noodles or rice), but for some reason, she loves tuna. I can fix it in just about any way-tuna melts, tuna salad sandwich, tuna noodle casserole and she will eat it. Tuna is my fall back-the thing I know I can make and won't hear any complaints. Strange but true!


I'm not a fish girl but I loved your story! :)


TNC: gack. Anything with tuna fish is just exactly as gross as your poor children say, heh. Matt grew up eating it and loves it, but he's only allowed to make it if I'm out of town. : )


Sorry, but I concur with your kids on this one. When I was in college, we shared cooking in our apartment and I would cringe when my roommate would so often prepare TNC. Perhaps, the frequency led to a gut of bad feeling. I don't know. I don't like it and when I see it, I think of my old roommate.


Meant to write "glut" of bad feeling, but I suppose the bad feeling had to do with my gut as well.

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