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Happiness comes from a can of hash
Shrimp Hash - photo by BILL HOGAN

Like many divine personalities, Mary Kitchen has a past shrouded in mystery. No one really knows if the goddess of corned beef hash is based on a real person or not, and why the name was chosen. Though Hormel Foods is marking the 61st anniversary of the brand in 2010, it’s likely we’ll never know for sure.

Still, I have unabashedly adored Mary Kitchen with a passion many reserve for real flesh and blood cooks. That’s because her hash makes me happy.

Yes, happy. I know, I should be in the kitchen making my own from leftovers rather than wielding a can opener. But understand, Mary Kitchen and I go way, way back.

I was introduced to Ms. Kitchen while a student at Manhattanville College. Dinner, what there was of it, was served at 5 p.m., and by 9 I was always starving. Mary Kitchen hash was great for dorm cooking because it came in a tidy can, didn’t need refrigeration and could be heated up quickly on one of the dorm stoves.

Mary Kitchen corned beef hash satisfied on so many levels. The hash was meaty with just enough fatty schmaltz and salt to make it taste decadent. The texture was fun, the meat kind of soft, the potatoes a little nubbly and the whole a bit crispy on the edges. Oh, and it went great with a Scotch on the rocks. Still does, in fact, though these days I’m more inclined to pour a pinot if corned beef hash is for dinner.

Hormel Foods makes roast beef and corned beef hash. I’ve always stuck with the corned beef; tastes best.