Last year, The Root's deputy editor, Terence Samuel, revealed that he hated stuffing. The staff at The Root couldn't believe it, and neither could many of our loyal readers. The original article is printed below.
I hate stuffing. No, I'm not saying that I hate a particular kind of stuffing—like stuffing that's too bread-crumby, or oyster stuffing, or stuffing that contains the organs of the turkey, or stuffing that's full of raisins or cranberries, though I am particularly repulsed by those.
I hate stuffing. All stuffing.
Stuffing is nothing more than an indistinguishable glop of mush, begging to be covered with gravy. It's a culinary afterthought; someone looked at the open cavity of a big bird a hundred or so years ago and thought, "We should stuff something in there."
Maybe I'm missing some essential drop of American-ness. I was raised in Trinidad. I didn't start doing Turkey Days until I moved to the U.S. at age 17, and more than once, people have described my antipathy toward stuffing, only half jokingly, as un-American. But that's not fair.
In many ways, I have an immigrant's zeal for all things American. In fact, I love Thanksgiving, the secular exuberance of it. I love the presumption that we have bountiful lives and much to be thankful for. I like that it's the national celebration of family. I like the idea that it is a traditional harvest celebration updated to embrace the bounty that our loved ones represent, and in that way, it is a uniquely American celebration.
I embrace the creation of personalized Thanksgiving traditions. My mother-in-law and I both love drumsticks. Every year, one of us hijacks both and then reluctantly gives one to the other person. I enjoy it when my brother-in-law, who lives in Dallas, is around when the Cowboys lose on Thanksgiving. I revel in watching my 7-year-old daughter and her cousins show each other how different they are from the last time they saw each other. I love Thanksgiving.
I just hate stuffing.
Stuffing seems like such a small and diminished idea for a holiday that has such grandiose notions. After all these generations of American bounty, shouldn't the culinary manifestation of Thanksgiving have evolved into something grander than a tasteless bird stuffed with mush? Mashed potatoes I get. There is power in the simplicity of a starchy root vegetable, whipped with butter into a creamy, civilized mass. I love pumpkin pie and the fact you don't have to fight the sweet-potato-pie lover for a slice. I have even come to appreciate the occasional green bean casserole.
But dried bread mushed together with gizzards and pan drippings?
Just think about it. No one can even really answer the question: "What is stuffing?" You get a million different answers. A quick Google search exposes a certain desperation to make stuffing more interesting: Cornbread Stuffing Southern Style; Milk Cracker Stuffing; Awesome Sausage, Apple and Cranberry Stuffing; and, of course, something called Stuffing of Champions (all linked here just in case you're still looking for a recipe). I am not impressed.
A Wikipedia entry gets straight to the heart of the problem for me. "It is not known when stuffings were first used," the entry reads. "The earliest documentary evidence is the Roman cookbook Apicius, which contains recipes for stuffed chicken, hare, pig, and dormouse."
Wikipedia then goes on to note that in the Middle Ages, stuffing was "known as farce (from the French); the root of the word 'forcemeat.'"
Maybe that explains it. Stuffing is not real food. It's farce. Somebody, please pass the gravy!
Terence Samuel is deputy editor of The Root.