This time of year it is almost impossible not to think about ghosts, ghouls, and zombies. It is also almost impossible to have zombies on the brain and not think about The Walking Dead. If you have never caught this show it is about a group of people in a zombie apocalypse, led by ex-sheriff Rick Grimes, and their journey of survival amongst the dead and the living.
One of the main characters of this show is Carol. She is tough and clever and it has been really interesting to watch her personality develop over the course of the show. She starts the show as a battered wife and metamorphoses into a warrior. She defends and protects her group with a fierceness that makes fans of the show love her. She is not afraid to manipulate or kill in order to survive the new world, and strangely, she is also the most…domestic of Rick’s group. Her previous life as a wife and mother shine through in some of the most unexpected moments of the show, for instance, in the episode “Try” from Season 5.
The plot of this episode is framed by the recent death of Deanna’s son Aiden, and amongst other things going on in the town, Carol reacts by making Deanna a casserole and leaving it for her with a comforting note. This gesture is significant (and the reason why I decided to write about it) for several reasons.
The first is because it marks the group’s efforts to stay in the town. In a time when death is the norm and often goes by without acknowledgment Carol’s attempt at comforting Deanna is noticeable. It is a gesture that is symbolic of the group’s desire to have the permission to stay; to live in a civilized place amidst the chaos of the world.
The second point about this is that it gives the viewer a reminder of Carol’s old life. At this point in the show she has completely transformed from an abused housewife and mother to a warrior and survivor; this display of domesticity gives a nod to Carol’s former self and shows us how far she has come from when we first met her. And just as she previously performed domestic duties to balance out the chaos of her life with her abusive husband she is now trying to balance out living in the apocalypse with living in the town.
Finally, it is also significant because Carol is observing the social construct of grief that no longer exists in the world. Deanna is dealing with loss and the food here is symbolic of the comfort that people give one another after death. The fact that it is a tuna casserole is believable because it can be made with what’s available but also because it is a grief food cliché.
To research this dish I watched the clip from the episode to get a good idea of the ingredients that Carol used. I filled in the blanks with other items likely to be on hand in a post apocalyptic world. I knew that this casserole would be pretty basic but the overall recipe is really versatile, so feel free to jazz it up with stuff you like as you go along.
First, I cooked the egg noodles, drained them and set them aside. We see Carol do this part of the recipe in the show. Next, I mixed some cream of celery soup and canned milk together. I used cream of celery soup to gave the casserole a hint of celery flavor which wouldn’t otherwise be possible in this scenario. I used canned milk for the probability factor too, but you can totally use fresh milk or soy milk or whatever you have on hand.
Next I mixed the noodles, the soup mixture, some canned peas, and two cans of tuna into a casserole dish. I covered and baked for 20 minutes, meanwhile I mixed some breadcrumbs and some parmesan cheese with some melted butter. After the 20 minutes in the oven I gave the casserole a good stir, sprinkled it with the breadcrumb mixture and put it back in the oven for 5 more minutes.
The result was a simple but comforting casserole. My husband who does not normally care for tuna-noodle anything said it was good. I felt compelled to write about the casserole because in addition to the spooky business of Halloween, I was looking for some classic comfort food for fall. I was able to find both in this dish, it’s a shame that Deanna rejected Carol’s attempt at comfort by leaving hers on the porch.
Carol’s Tuna Noodle Casserole:
1 Can Cream of Celery Soup
1/2 cup milk (Canned or fresh)
1 cup canned green peas
2 cans (about 5 ounces each) tuna in water, drained
2 cups medium egg noodles, cooked and drained
2 tbsp. plain dry bread crumbs
2 tbsp. grated parmesan cheese
2tbsp. melted butter
- Heat the oven to 400°F. Stir the soup and milk together.
- Mix peas, tuna and noodles in a 1 1/2-quart casserole. Gently stir in soup/milk mixture.
- Bake the tuna mixture for 20 minutes or until hot and bubbling. Meanwhile, stir the bread crumbs, cheese and butter in a small bowl.
- Stir the tuna mixture and sprinkle with bread crumb/cheese mixture
- Bake for 5 minutes or until the bread crumb mixture is golden brown.