The Story Behind the Recipe: Green Chile Rice Casserole

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People from good country stock know about a good-sized vegetable garden – that’s where their family eats from. And Bettye Bell and her husband, Paul, are no exception. Their two children, four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren love to eat vegetables – fresh, frozen or canned from the Bell garden in Franklin County.

“We cook mostly corn and beans, stuff out of the freezer,” says Bell. “They like the beans and corn and okra because they don’t have a garden. They buy their stuff, but they say this is better. That’s what they love – plain, old-timey vegetables.”

Green Chile Rice Casserole Recipe

And, on occasion, a side dish that Bell prepares to go with those old-timey vegetables is Green Chile Rice Casserole, which is featured in Country Classics Volume II, published by the Tennessee Farm Bureau Women, now in its second printing. Bell can’t remember where she found the recipe – she guesses a magazine – but she’s been making it for some years now to serve with vegetables and meat.

“It was just a little different from the usual run,” she says. “It doesn’t have much in it, but it’s pretty good.”

Like most older Southern cooks whose children have flown the nest and, with them, the daily routine of three large meals, Bell doesn’t cook as much as she used to. She and her husband are retired farmers, having raised hay, corn, tobacco, pigs and cows in their prime time in the small community of Harmony, just outside of Winchester near the Tims Ford Dam.

“I was raised in Harmony, and I never left it,” Bell says. According to her, the community got its name from a man who gave land for a church, which he named Harmony because he wanted people to live in harmony. “It just stuck,” she says. Do the people live in harmony there? “Yeah, they do,” she says. “It’s a real nice community.”

Bell and her husband are still active in that harmonious community. In fact, she has taken her Green Chile Rice Casserole to many a potluck supper, where it is warmly received. And the Bells are plenty active at home in the summer when Paul does the garden work and Bettye puts up vegetables for the winter. They own three freezers, which stay full most of the time. Their children – Roger from Huntsville with his brood and Gayle Chandler with hers from just up the hill – come over for meals quite frequently.

Bettye and Paul will fix a pot roast with vegetables and maybe a recipe from her “whole slew” of cookbooks, including the Country Classics II. She loves those recipes too.

“They’re good, really good,” she says.

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