Take heart then, as I do, from this little book that I picked up in a small secondhand store in the south of Mexico City.
It was published in 1973. A little more than two decades earlier in 1952 Cooking with Condensed Soup had propelled tuna casserole, green bean casserole and all kinds of other dishes using condensed soup as a sauce to previously unimagined popularity.
Campbell’s, which had been in Mexico since 1959, had published 55,000 copies, a really huge print run for Mexico.
The classics are there: atún y tallarines al horno (tuna and noodles baked in the oven) on p.110; molde de ejotes (mold of green beans) on p. 75. And there are some 400 other recipes including macaroni and cheese, stroganoff with mushroom soup, meat loaf with tomato soup, and a series of cakes to which “tomato soup imparts a mysterious flavor of je ne sais quoi (“la sopa de tomate imparte un misterioso sabor de un ‘no-sé-que.’”)
Net result on Mexican cooking. That I can see, zilch, nothing, nada.
Unaccustomed to cream sauces, unaccustomed to using cook books, the middle class housewives that this book targeted went their traditional ways. In all my years in Mexico, I never saw another copy of this book, never heard a housewife who used condensed soups to make sauces, never saw condensed soup sauce recipes in magazines or books.
Which isn’t to say that housewives don’t buy the popular crema de chile poblano and crema de elote (corn) or that they don’t use the beef broth for tortilla soup. They do.
But just as American housewives never budged on adding a soup course to the evening meal, Mexican housewives were never persuaded to eat tuna casserole with mushroom soup. They stuck to empanadas de atún.
There’s only so much a housewife will take.