How to poison your family and make it look like an accident

It’s almost Thanksgiving again, and time for the age-old debate of stuffing versus dressing. I originally posted about this  conundrum on November 25, 2010, and thought it worth repeating just in time for this Thanksgiving. After all, it’s not every day you get an opportunity to poison your relatives with a delightful holiday dish!


Stuffing Versus Dressing

A stuffed turkey

In the states it’s almost time for Thanksgiving, an annual holiday where everyone eats too much turkey and pie, and watches the Lions lose again. For the Thanksgiving cook, the meal preparation always brings up the age-old debate – stuffing vs dressing. They both start out the same – dried bread cubes, seasonings, sometimes broth, margarine or butter, and water, made into a conglomeration that is either stuffed inside the turkey (stuffing) or baked separately in a dish (dressing). Everyone has their own opinion on which is best, and families line up fiercely divided each year on which way this delectable Thanksgiving carbohydrate should be served. Accompanying this debate of which way is tastier is the issue (some myth, some fact) over which way is healthier or safer. Who knew that dried bread cubes could raise such ire among otherwise friendly people?

In my family growing up, we always had dressing. I’m not sure why, but I think it was in part due to the fact that: it was easier. The dressing could be made while the turkey was cooking instead of earlier in the day when the turkey was ready to go into the oven. It was quicker. Stuffed turkey is supposed to take longer to cook than unstuffed (although in my own cooking experience I have never found this to be true.) It was safer. My family and others believed that the stuffing could become contaminated with bacteria from absorbing the meat juices and turn an otherwise delightful day into a merry trip to the emergency room.

Then I met my future husband whose family was all stuffing, all the way, and why would anyone consider doing it differently? What could be better than bread cubes infused with savory turkey juices and the two pounds of butter that Buttterball and others inject into their turkeys before sending them off to the store?

So what’s a girl to do? I have to admit I found both ways tasty, although sometimes the stuffing did not look quite as appetizing as the dressing, depending upon what colors it turned from the meat juices it absorbed during cooking. Eventually when I took over hosting the Thanksgiving meal, my compromise was to make stuffing and dressing. The amount of stuffing that would fit inside the turkey was not enough to serve everyone at the table anyway, so I would serve a dish of each, or sometimes mix them together, which I guess gives you something which is neither stuffing nor dressing, but there is not really any good combination word you can make from combining stuffing and dressing.

This compromise did not come without a cost, however. Members of the dressing contingent would make sly comments like “Make sure you’ve cooked that stuffing to 160 degrees so we don’t all get food poisoning, ha ha,” while members of the stuffing contingent would say “Who would want to eat that dressing? It always turns out so dry.”

And when it comes right down to it, where did the whole stuffing/dressing custom come from anyway? Imagine the Pilgrims at the first Thanksgiving. They’ve had a horrible year. First, all that travel and they couldn’t even earn any points from it. Then, having to build a settlement, squabble with the Native Americans, endure hardship, disease, cold and hunger. Finally, the ones who survived prepared what was probably a somewhat meager feast in celebration. There was no Kroger stores in Plymouth, so they had to hunt down their turkey, then pluck it, cut off the inedible parts, and remove the disgusting innards. After going through all that, and wrestling the turkey into a heavy cast iron roaster, you’d think that the Pilgrim cooks would have had enough of turkey prep for one day. But some creative person, staring into the empty cavity of the just gutted turkey said “hey, wouldn’t it be a great idea to cut up bread into cubes, add water, lard and spices and stuff this sucker?” And the rest as we say, is history.

Whether you eat stuffing or dressing, may you all have a happy and grateful Thanksgiving!

© Huffygirl 2012

(Dedicated to Aaron and Chris, my stuffing-loving relatives who will be eating someone else’s stuffing this year. Miss you!)


21 thoughts on “How to poison your family and make it look like an accident

  1. Another hilarious post, love the title.
    I’m a stuffing person, but always make it outside the bird now- we grill the turkey to keep the “kosher” oven free for all the sides. I miss the smell in the house of the cooking turkey.. but hey, what we do for our kids.
    Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, I’m stuck on finding a combo word for dressing and stuffing.. how about stressing or druffing…

    • Thanks Lisa. Now grilling a turkey is something I’ve never tried. Maybe next year.

      I love druffing, but I suspect no one would eat it if we called it that. But stressing says it all – although I don’t think I stress over this holiday anywhere near as much as I did when my house was smaller and when I had parents and in-laws. The groups we assemble now is a little more easy going.

      Hope you have a great, kosher Thanksgiving.

  2. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your readers, HG. Because my hubby is American, we get to celebrate TWO thanksgivingses…a month apart. Mixed marriages do so work!!

    Until now I had never heard of “dressing” – well, I had heard of the word but had assumed it was just another word for stuffing. So I have avoided a hotly debated issue my entire life until now.

    My vote for the combined word would be struffsing. 😛

    • Struffsing – very original Sandra, and without the implication of stress evoked by “stressing.” I wish you a happy second Thanksgiving, and hope you have plenty of struffsing for all.

  3. Since we always called dressing “stuffing,” I could easily get confused. I like the stuff that never touched the turkey; the stuff cooked inside is too soggy. You are so nice to make both. .

    • Now I thought we always called it “dressing” growing up. And of course mom never put it inside the turkey. Do you remember when Daddy used to get a turkey from work, and they’d have it cut in half and we’d have half for Thanksgiving and half for Christmas? I think it was years before we ever saw a whole cooked turkey at our house. We must have been more poor than I realized.

  4. A holiday conundrum
    A fine challenge of obligations given once again to stuffing the old plump geezer,
    the enigma of it all in finding a well proportionated suit for this year’s star guest.

    Poser he may sway your family as next year’s onuses without being Ms Christie’s butler,
    the always questionable character in every well written literary hardbound mystery.

    Familiar visitant, some welcome while others debated as such, yet they are those you are given,
    each with own impeccable ideas to how this geezer is to be done or rather undone in the merriness.

    To be stuffed or not: that’s the question burning on our tongs admits the holiday cheer,
    of well filled glasses, tables decked with Aunt Mary are daring once a year astronomical feats.

    While after the wishbone has been broken, the dishes have been washed, the last aspire disbursed,
    while the old clock in the hall tells of the passing of yet another 3rd Thursday of November.

    We wish to all: Happy Thanksgiving, and Aunt May, it’s your turn next year!

      • I enjoyed writing the piece and indeed the ‘plump old geezer” refers to the turkey. I can relate to the stress and in some cases nice things about the all/only American holiday of Thanksgiving.

      • Thanks for sharing it, and I’m sure everyone reading it will enjoy it as well. Canadians also celebrate Thanksgiving, but the one with Pilgrims, football games and turkey is definitely all American.

    • That’s a new one for me Sharon. Personally, I don’t think filling sounds as appetizing. It sounds like something you put in the food to make it go farther, like breadcrumbs in hamburger.

  5. I kind of hoped it’d be something along the cyanide in the koolaid or just enough arsenic sprinkles on the kids ice cream to ensure a healthy demise and such. Disappointing.

    • sorry to disappoint you Mike Jones. Maybe you could Google “how to poison your family” and come up with some better suggestions. Although, over the years I’ve had many family members convinced that I was indeed poisoning them, so maybe that stuffing is more deadly than one might think.

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