The Stuffing Wars



The stuffing wars always start up around Thanksgiving.

Forget the battle between the Red and Blue states; or the feud between the Hatfield’s and the McCoy’s. If you really want to start a heated debate, serve up the topic of Thanksgiving stuffing to two of your closest friends. I warn you: Step back if you do, for this is a hotly contested issue likely to end in a brawl.


I like traditional stuffing.

Now these ingredients are stuffing worthy. Let’s see, that’s bread, onions, celery and more bread!

The Battle Defined


Those like me belong to the traditionalist stuffing camp.  We are the soldiers of light and right, believing stuffing and dressing should be kept in its purest form.  That means it should consist of bread, onion, celery, a few select herbs, and enough broth to make it moist, but not soggy. The non-traditionalists, a group I label the evil empire for dabbling in the arts of stuffing’s darker side, will instead take this delightful food and defile it with all sorts of “tainted” ingredients.  Though it takes a concerted effort to refrain from gagging as I name them, the evil empire dares to ruin otherwise perfectly good stuffing with dried fruit, oysters, nuts, raisins, seeds, juniper berries and/or countless other items too vile to name.


How Far Is Too Far?


What drives these people to such heinous acts of eco-stuffing-terrorism? What twisted cravings disable a person’s taste buds to the point they would to go to such extremes?  Stuffing, in its most blessed and unadulterated form is one of life’s true comfort foods.  How can Thanksgiving be any better than loading your plate high with traditional (i.e. plain) stuffing and then smothering it in turkey gravy? And what can possibly be more revolting than to take a blissful bite into your stuffing only to discover it loaded down with some oozy, gooey, or crunchy nugget?  I’m mean really—some of the ingredients people put in stuffing shouldn’t even be considered edible on their own!  Where is the FDA, the FBI or the Department of Homeland Security when you need them?  This is a matter of national security, people!


Looking Back


I wonder if we'll have turkey for Chrismas this year?

Christmas was never a sure turkey bet. We’d often have a roast.

When I was young, we would consider ourselves lucky to get a turkey dinner with all the trimmings once or twice a year. It was always on a holiday.  Thanksgiving was a sure bet, but on Christmas or Easter we would often eat a roast or ham instead.  In any case, turkey day was always a day of celebration and sharing. I remember Mom getting up before dawn to start her preparations—the smells of turkey, stuffing, cheesy green bean casserole and pie would waft through the house all day.


Back then we didn’t know about the hazards of cooking our stuffing in the bird. I don’t know if things have really changed over the years, or if we were simply very lucky to live through holiday dinners. Whatever the case, we usually had both stuffing and dressing.


I Prefer Stuffing


For the longest time, I didn’t realize that stuffing and dressing were technically different.  Then Mom explained stuffing was cooked inside the bird and dressing was cooked outside.  Stuffing was always better and moister to me, and no wonder, since it soaked up all that turkey fat.


I do like that cheesy bean casserole.

Okay, I admit it…I did save some room for the cheesy bean casserole.

Somebody Say Dinner?


One of my favorite turkey time chores as a child was to de-stuff the bird. For every three spoonfuls I placed in the bowl one spoonful went down my gullet. No wonder, Mom started making dressing along with the stuffing—she needed enough for the rest of the family. Usually by the time dinner was ready and the family was gathering to the table, the turkey and I had changed postitions—I was the one now thoroughly stuffed.


 This Is New


After I left home for college, Mom started suffering from E.T.N.S.—that’s Empty Turkey Nest Syndrome for those unaware.  I know this for a fact because she started going crazy with recipes. She would scour magazines and cookbooks looking for “new” family traditions. When I came home for the holidays, she would strap us down to the dining room chairs and subject us to all kinds of food-related experiments.  There would be new salads and side dishes to accompany the meal. She also tried new methods for cooking the turkey, including roasting it upside down, basting with natural juices, or injecting all kinds of herbs or leftover Halloween witches brew. Thankfully, all during this experimental phase I could always count on her serving up traditional stuffing. That is until the one year she was seduced by the dark side.


Cruel And Unusual Punishment


I still suffer nightmares.  It’s impossible to describe the depth of my horror when I learned the dressing we were about to eat wasn’t even made with bread, and it had all kinds of things in it like cranberries and nuts.  No doubt there were other even more revolting things I have blanked out for the sake of my sanity. All I know for sure is I had been anticipating eating traditional stuffing for weeks beforehand, and then was ambushed without warning.  What kid deserves that? Surely, even as a young adult there should have been some government agency ready to step in and prevent this form of child abuse.


Moving Right Along


Neither Mom nor I ever forgot that dinner.  Though she would chuckle for years about what I called the “Great Dressing Debacle”, I could never get over the shock.  Even today, I shudder from head to toe as I remember biting into the slimy excuse for a turkey side dish.  Stuffing?  Not in your wildest dreams!


I finally took over the duties of making Thanksgiving dinners to prevent another fiasco like that one.  Though I am still trying to perfect my traditional stuffing/dressing recipe, I haven’t yet created a fool proof concoction.  You can rest assured, however, that mine will always be traditional down to its core—no fish guts or squirrel fodder for me!


No, Say It Isn’t So!


This apple pie looks delicous.

At least, hubby and I never fight over the apple pie.

Alas, and though this pains me to no end, my dearest Hubby is not a stuffing traditionalist like me. In fact, as the holidays approach I sometimes find him lurking in the shadows around the house.  Though I dare not imagine that he dabbles in the evil empire’s stuffing arts, he seems unduly proud to associate with those who would pollute the waters. This being the case, there is often a number of heated discussions over adding ingredients to our stuffing.  You feel my suffering, don’t you?  Yes, I thought so, and yet I love him enough I have cautiously embraced a form of stuffing diversity.  This means, we now have two stuffing dishes at the table—the rightful and true form traditional, and well, that other one.  Don’t worry.  I am not, nor shall I ever be tempted to change my stuffing ways.  And rest assured, my strength of conviction on this matter allows me to placate his errant and reckless behavior.


We Shall Overcome


Onward traditionalists!  Our righteous and glorious path shall shine for all to see.  Bring on the real stuffing.   It’s turkey time!


Take The Stuffing Challenge


Okay readers, I’ve thrown down the gauntlet.  Take your positions, draw your lines, sharpen your debate skills and prepare to tell us all about your worst stuffing battles and/or your childhood eating traumas in the comments below.


If you enjoyed this post, you may also want to read: Lillybean’s Cheesy Bean Casserole


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