Emily’s Casserole…Food and Family History

Emily’s Casserole…Food and Family History

I’m so excited to announce that I was a guest on Carolynn from Ancestor’s Alive’s (AncestorsAlive!) “From Paper to People” podcast, which was released today! (Episode 26: Emily’s Casserole) If you’re not listening, you should be (subscribe in all the usual places), as she’s one of the few genealogy podcasts that’s really caught out attention.

She recently did an episode on a family recipe that helped tell a story from her family’s history (Episode 23: Johnny Mazetti, or is it Marzetti?), and she put a call for others who had similar stories. While ours doesn’t trace actual family history, and in-fact doesn’t come from direct family, per se, it really does tell a story, so we reached out and Carolynn invited Rick on.

The episode discusses a casserole that was made by family “friend” Emily Ott. Emily was a part of Michael’s Great Grandmother Catherine (Morse) Leonard’s household, and she was a key factor in raising Catherine’s 5 children. Rick grew up with Emily as a constant in his Grandmother’s home, and knew she was more than a housekeeper, but not quite a Great Aunt. His dad had a deep fondness for her, and Rick visited her in assisted living in his college years.

Emily’s Casserole
3 lbs. thin sliced potatoes
1 bad of carrots, sliced
1 medium-large sliced onion
1 ½ lbs. ground beef, browned*
1 can Cream of Celery soup
1 can of milk
Butter dutch oven, and layer in potatoes, carrots, onions and ground beef. Mix soup with milk, and pour over top. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for an hour and a half.

Emily’s casserole was a staple when Rick was growing up, it was a favorite of his dad’s and mom got the recipe from Emily knowing it was always enjoyed…and it was easy to make. It became a part of Rick’s comfort food repertoire, just like it had been for his father, and it’s now a part of his children’s. (Editor’s Note: In the interest of transparency, the subject of this blog (Michael) is not a big fan of this casserole and it’s not as regular in our family dinner rotation as it once was…but it will be!)

That a dish named for Emily was one of the comfort food for Rick’s dad and uncles were children tells us a lot about our family history. Emily was like a sister to Grandma Leonard, but never too much like a sister. The family legend (largely true I believe) was that she was rescued by our historic, revered Congressman ancestor E.A. Morse of Antigo, WI. But she was also an employee from an early age. First for the Morse family, and then for their only daughter (and very close in-age) Catherine. It was an interesting dynamic that wasn’t fully apparent to the grandchildren of Catherine, but it runs deeply through the fabric of today. She had a deep, emotional impact on us, but she wasn’t family…but she was, even if she was an employee.

We’ll feature Emily in more detail in a future post, but today take a listen to Carolynn’s amazing podcast, where she helps pull the details of this story out…and shows how a casserole sometimes isn’t just a casserole!

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