One of my old co-workers once told me she had never had Hamburger Helper. Actually, she retracted her statement and said she had only tired it once. She acted like something was wrong with this dish which has been a staple in my life since childhood.
I remember my mother sometimes making it for church potlucks in her orange oven safe dish. But mostly, I remember my dad cooking it. I love my dad but cooking isn’t his best attribute (or at least when I was a child.) When my mother started working outside the house, dad became response for dinner during “busy season.”
As I have explained in previous blog posts, my Grandpa and Grandma Fletcher owned a fertilizer company. In the springtime, they work long hours. The day began before the sun was up and didn’t end until after the sun had gone down. This is of course so the farmers could get their fields planted. In my family, everyone knew better than to plan events during “busy season”. That meant no weddings! Anyone who graduated or gave birth during this time was subjected to limited attention. That is, until it rained. This was the one time the guys couldn’t get into the fields to spread or spray fertilizer. And back in the day, they even worked Sundays.
Like I said, my dad cooking meant little food options for dinner. My dad could make anything on the charcoal grill, Potato Buds, scrambled or sunny-side up eggs, and Hamburger Helper. Of yeah, he could also cook food from the Schwan’s Man like chicken strips or single serve mini-pizzas. Hamburger Helper was a welcomed change to our dinner routine. Think about it, you can cook an entire dinner in about 30 minutes? My dad didn’t get home from the station until 6:30 and he had to clean-up before he could make us dinner. My bedtime back then was like 8:30PM. And we had to have leave enough time to wash dishes and make popcorn (saltine crackers for me) for our after dinner snack.
Even today, I still make Hamburger Helper. It’s a cheap dinner if you buy it and the meat when they are on sale. I totally impressed my ex-boyfriend M by cooking him Potato Stroganoff one night. But I have to admit, I probably prepare more Chicken and Tuna Helpers these days. The Chicken Fried Rice is really good and way easier to make than any other from scratch recipe I’ve tried.