(Strip Number 1310, Original Publication Date, 02 July 1988)
Panel 1: John sneaks into the scene on his knees clutching a warped piece of wood or the side of a cardboard box. (It really could be either, because he doesn’t do anything but hold it.) He listens as Annie says if Elly hates to waste food all she has to do is follow the three C’s. No doubt he thinks it’s going to be: Consumption, Cooking, Calories. Annie has other ideas.
Panel 2: One is Company which means inviting someone over. Notice Annie has to put up her index finger so we know she is talking about “one”. Presumably this means inviting someone over to eat your leftovers. I can just see how that would go:
Elly: We would like you to come over to dinner tonight, Connie.
Connie: That’s sounds great. When would you like me to come over?
Elly: About 8 pm. We should be done eating by then.
Connie: Why wouldn’t I eat with you?
Elly: We’re only inviting you over to eat our leftovers.
Two: Compost. That’s a reasonable suggestion. Guess how many times “compost” shows up in the keywords you can search on Lynn’s website Comics Archive? If you guessed “zero”, then you are exactly right. Elly only does environmental kind of stuff on Sundays.
Panel 3: Showing she can count, Elly says, “and three?” It’s nice to see that Annie is not having to dumb down the conversation so Elly can keep up. Thank goodness there weren’t four C’s. John hears the word “casserole” and gets a shocked and depressed look on his face, as if he was unaware that casseroles often contain leftovers. It’s funny to the reader because Lynn is using the word “casserole” as a shorthand for saying, “really bad food.” The reason we know this is because in this strip and this strip and this strip and this strip and this strip and this strip and this strip, casseroles are considered to be really bad food.
Later on in life, when Lynn Johnston decided Elly was the best cook ever, even casseroles were included in that transformation to goodness in this strip and this strip:
But back in the day, casseroles were so evil and vile, it should be noted that before announcing to Elly that she thinks Steve is having an affair, Annie delivers a casserole to Elly to make sure we readers know that something bad is happening. If Annie had delivered a loaf of bread or a cake or even a wafer thin mint, the comic strip would have had a completely different tone.
Panel 4: The bottles John and Steve are drinking out of have a very peculiar shape, but I cannot place them. In my house, the bottles that look like this contain maple syrup. Do Canadians drink maple syrup right out of the bottle? I looked through Molson commercials from 1988 and it’s not beer bottle-shaped. Regardless, lifting the beverage has apparently turned Steve into a muscle man. Look how enormous his right arm is compared to John’s. He could lift a truck with that arm.
Summary: The joke depends on the idea that just mentioning a casserole contains leftovers has so shocked John that he feels the need to share this with Steve by the fence and over a beverage and recommend that Steve never listen in to female conversation. Honestly, you would think Annie and Elly were talking about child birth or menstruation the way John is reacting. Like most of this story cycle where Elly talks about wasting food, I have not been able to relate to even the slightest part of it.