Next week there will be a community dinner in the food court of Mt. Blue High School. This dinner will help alleviate financial needs for Mat Otte whose mother passed recently following a short illness. Mat is a beloved member of the community, and so while the mission is to help Mat financially, it will do much more. It has brought together a team of students, parents, and other community members to help Mat thrive during a time of grieving and uncertainty. In addition, it will strengthen the larger community.
I remember the help from the community when my father passed when I was little. When people come together, I know the sense of comfort and a community can accomplish at a time of grieving and unwanted change. Matt’s loving classmates, coaches, community members, parents, and so many others have organized to provide donated spaghetti, American chop suey, salads, and desserts.
What’s special about a community dinner?
I googled community dinners. Church dinners topped the list. But, of course, Google knows analytics; it doesn’t know people. Community dinners happen anywhere, anytime, with any number of people and any food. Community dinners are held in churches, schools, people’s homes, Granges, and the town square. They celebrate supporting each other during a time of need or “just because.” They help communities thrive by bringing individuals together in the collective. Community dinners allow us to “gather each other’s stories and hug them to our hearts.”
The inspiration for my company’s food platform comes from the love of cooking and sharing of food. I believe that the energy we put into cooking or serving food is passed along in each portion. This means that we best serve humanity when we serve food with love and compassion. This is what will transpire at the community dinner to support Mat. Each scoop of spaghetti or American Chop Suey will be a serving of caring and love for a young man during a time of need.
Where did American Chop Suey get its name?
I’ve come up with no definitive answer. It should be called “New England” Chop Suey as it seems to be germane to this region. In other parts of the country, goulash, a similar dish, is served. While the two dishes look similar, American chop suey seems to have one main difference: no paprika.
Sometimes American Chop Suey is called macaroni and beef. The dish seems to have made its debut in the ’70s when busy homemakers needed a quick dish to feed the family or take to a potluck. Most often it’s made in a pot on top of the stove or baked in the oven. It was a staple for my mom to feed a hungry family.
When my mother-in-law said she was making Chinese Chop Suey, I anticipated a big bowlful of a saucy combination of hamburger, spices, and macaroni. Sadly, I soon had the opportunity to realize my confusion. One that is shared by many. The two dishes are entirely different.
Unbeknownst to me at the time was a bit of irony to my chop suey experiences.
One story about the invention of American Chop Suey vs Chinese Chop Suey says that one of Li Hung Chang’s cooks invented the concoction of Chinese Chop Suey as a way to create an American-Chinese concoction. Now, whether this tale is entirely true or not, the cook did influence America’s acceptance of Chinese food even though it was an adaptation rather than a direct translation.
This meal isn’t meant to be hot and spicy but however, your family likes it best is the way it can be made. So if you want to turn up the heat, go for it!
Traditional New England Chop Suey
- Large fry pan
- Mixing spoon
- Measuring spoons
- 1.5 lbs Grass-fed Hamburger
- 1 tbs Butter
- 1 Med Organic Green pepper, diced
- 1 Med Organic Onion, diced
- 2 tsp Organic Garlic powder
- 2 tsp Basil, dried
- 1 tsp Oregano, dried
- 1/2 tsp Black pepper, ground
- 1/4 tsp Himalayan salt
- 1/2 tsp Organic Sugar, brown or white
- 1 (14.5) oz (can) Organic Diced tomatoes, 14.5 oz can
- 1 (14.5) oz (can) Organic Tomato sauce
- 1 lb Elbow Macaroni
- Melt butter in a large frying pan over medium heat.
- Dice green pepper and onion and saute in butter until just soft. Stir in garlic.
- Remove from packaging and add hamburger. Break it up with a fork as it cooks (called scrambling) being sure there are no large chunks. Cook thoroughly - about 5-7 min.
- Sprinkle in the herbs, salt, and pepper. Stir thoroughly.
- Add the canned tomatoes, with the juice, the tomato paste, and the tomato sauce. Simmer this mixture to allow the flavors to meld.
- While the meat mixture is simmering, cook elbow macaroni according to package directions.
- Add drained, cooked macaroni to meat mixture. You have now created American Chop Suey!!
- Our family enjoys Parmesan cheese shredded over their servings. Or it can be mixed in before serving.