I·ATE Food Term of the Week: Stuffing

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A picture of stuffing with sides of mashed potatoes, and the title

Thanksgiving cheer

November to those in the United States means two things, Black Friday shopping and Thanksgiving dinner. On every 4th Thursday in November, Americans gather with their family members and give thanks for the good things in their lives, usually paired with a delicious family meal.

The turkey eaten at Thanksgiving has become a staple part of US culture, with US Presidents even taking part in a tradition where a turkey is “pardoned” (this year the lucky turkeys were named ‘Chocolate’ and ‘Chip’). An important but somewhat overlooked part of this turkey tradition, though, is the stuffing.

Stuffing, often also referred to as “dressing”, is a delicious mixture of bread, spices, and vegetables. Small bread chunks are combined with chopped celery and onions that have been cooked with vegetable or chicken broth, and seasonings like rosemary, sage, thyme and garlic. The whole dish comes together with the addition of eggs, salt, and vinegar.

The name “stuffing” is due to the fact that it is traditionally stuffed into the animal before it is cooked. This cooking method allows the stuffing to soak in all of the flavors of the meat, turning into a wonderfully tasty side dish. The tradition is, of course, to stuff a turkey, but families have been known to serve stuffed chicken or even ham.

While some families stick with the traditional way of stuffing the animal and cooking the mixture along with the meat, others choose to put it in a separate dish and cook it on a stovetop or in the oven. The ingredients used to make stuffing are another way that families around the country take their own twist on the Thanksgiving delicacy.

Southerners in the USA, for example, switch the bread or breadcrumbs out for cornbread in their traditional stuffing, while those in the New England area add oysters. The Pennsylvania Dutch even call it “filling”, with their “potato filling” being synonymous with the region.

Stuffing around the World

It is no surprise that stuffing is just as popular in Europe as it is in the United States. The first written record of a stuffing recipe comes from a Roman cookbook, after all. Known as farce in French, stuffing is an important part of the French Christmas. The same can be said about Germany and their affinity for Füllung. Eaten during German Thanksgiving, Erntedankfest, as well as Christmas, the methods of stuffing resemble those you can see on the other side of the Atlantic. A flavorful broth and the lovely mixture of herbs and bread make European stuffing delicious.

Love it or hate it, stuffing is a major part of holiday traditions around the world. As we approach the winter holidays in Europe, remember not to stuff yourself too much with turkey or chicken, but to save a spot on your dinner plate for the true star of the meal.

References

Andrews, T. (2022). Biden pardons two turkeys, over possible objections from the first dog. Washington Post. [online] 21 Dec. Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2022/11/21/biden-turkey-pardon-2022/ [Accessed 22 Nov. 2022].

Carman, T. (2017). Thanksgiving stuffing (or dressing) is the dish that best reflects America’s diversity. Washington Post. [online] 16 Nov. Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/food/thanksgiving-stuffing-or-dressing-is-the-dish-that-best-reflects-americas-diversity/2017/11/15/941d4c02-c326-11e7-84bc-5e285c7f4512_story.html [Accessed 22 Nov. 2022].

Foreman, A. (2016). Much Ado About Stuffing: A History. [online] WSJ. Available at: https://www.wsj.com/articles/much-ado-about-stuffing-a-history-1479479057 [Accessed 22 Nov. 2022].

M, N. (2018). Holiday Staples: The History of Stuffing. [online] Arcadiapublishing.com. Available at: https://www.arcadiapublishing.com/Navigation/Community/Arcadia-and-THP-Blog/December-2018/Holiday-Staples-The-History-of-Stuffing#:~:text=Although%20experts%20are%20not%20clear [Accessed 22 Nov. 2022].

Mims, B. (2022). Sourdough and Herb Stuffing. [online] Los Angeles Times. Available at: https://www.latimes.com/recipe/thanksgiving-sourdough-and-herb-stuffing [Accessed 22 Nov. 2022].

Written by Margaly Monelus

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Born in the United States of America in 1996, she is currently taking part in the Master in Learning and Communication in Multilingual and Multicultural Contexts at the University of Luxembourg. She holds a bachelor in sociology from Fairleigh Dickinson University and has spent 4 years as a native English teacher, living and working in South Korea and France. In her free time, she enjoys learning new languages and improving her vegan baking abilities.