One thing is certain about this year’s Thanksgiving: It will be unlike any we’ve ever celebrated. COVID-19’s second wave is keeping family gatherings small, if they’re not canceled entirely. In these disconcerting times, something familiar can be of great comfort, and for many of us, green bean casseroles made with cream of mushroom soup from Camden-based Campbells Soup Co. are as much a part of Thanksgiving as turkey and cranberry sauce. Those turkey-day soup cans actually account for 40% of the company’s annual sales of this product.
But sales figures only tell part of the story: This classic casserole was first whipped up in 1955 by Dorcas Reilly, who was working as a supervisor at the home economics department of a Campbells test kitchen in Camden. Her goal: Come up with a simple recipe that home cooks could easily follow. Her final version included just six ingredients — a can of Campbells cream of mushroom soup, milk, soy sauce, black pepper, green beans and crunchy fried onions.
You don’t have to look that closely at the Thanksgiving table to find another New Jersey connection. The Garden State is the country’s third-largest producer of cranberries, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). In 2018, local farmers harvested 51.2 million pounds of cranberries on 3,100 acres for a production value of $15.8 million. And for a final Thanksgiving link, 95% of New Jersey’s cranberries are sold to Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc. which, according to the company, rolls out 70 million cans of cranberry sauce a year, with 5 million sold during the holiday season.
Whether you’re sitting at a Thanksgiving table with your immediate family or spending 2020 solo, we all have a great deal to be thankful for, despite our losses. So open up a can of cream of mushroom soup, dig out those other five ingredients and fix yourself a green bean casserole, even if it’s only a serving for one. Be careful. Stay safe. We have many more Thanksgivings to spend together.