I’ll begin with dictionary definitions, before divulging my own personal opinion on this matter.
Casserole: Noun. A kind of stew that is cooked slowly in an oven.
Hot dish: Noun. Hot food cooked and served in a deep covered dish.
I’ll note that the definition of hot dish was difficult to find, as most major dictionaries don’t have it as an entry.
This fact feeds my belief that the casserole is a superior supper. There it is — I think casserole is better.
I’ve had my share of arguments about casserole versus hot dish. I find myself generally outnumbered amongst a divided group of people who hotly debate the naming of the dish.
Many argue for hot dish, to which I ask, “What did you bake it in?” The answer: a casserole dish. My point, again, is proven.
Around and around the argument goes. They insist on hot dish; I insist on casserole, being the only one at the table who was not born a Midwesterner and, therefore, usually outnumbered.
The first time I ate tator tot hot dish was only a couple of years ago, but that’s not to say that my education on Midwest foods doesn’t go back a bit further.
My education in Midwest foods began as a child at Swedish family reunions, when I looked down at my plate to notice everything was shades of the same beige color, albeit a delicious beige: fried chicken or fish, bread, mashed potatoes and gravy. I went back for seconds.
At Christmas the meal shifted to lutefisk, rolls and mashed potatoes. I did not go back for seconds on the lutefisk.
Another prime example of food found only in the Midwest is a dish my aunts make (and it is delicious, Aunt Sue) called Snickers salad. The name “salad” is quite misleading due to the fact that the primary ingredients are Cool Whip, chopped Snickers candy bars and apples. I find dishes like this to be not only tasty but Minnesota signatures.
Getting back to the casserole-hot dish debate, the argument always comes down simply to a name, and neither side is willing to relinquish much ground.
There are, however, a few dishes that I will admit are hot dishes. Among them is the tator tot hot dish and wild rice hot dish.
The rest, I contest, are casseroles.