I’m here to break the news to you that my grandmother’s (Nanny) stuffing is better than yours. This may come as a shock to you, but I guarantee that no matter how good you think your family’s stuffing recipe is, it can’t top Nanny’s stuffing served each Thanksgiving.
How do I know this? Is there a way to irrefutably settle a debate concerning taste? That is where the thanksgiving day stuffing debate gets interesting. Every year when Thanksgiving rolls around, I tell people it is my favorite holiday. In the midst of my explanation for why it is the best, I mention my grandmother’s stuffing. Virtually EVERY time, the person I am talking with interrupts me to say “My <insert family member> makes THE. BEST. STUFFING.” In years past I would interrogate the person for a list of ingredients in their families stuffing. Some of the stuffing recipes I heard were downright awful. Stuffing is not meant to be sweet! Stuffing does not need to be overloaded with meat, you already have a 20 pound turkey staring at you on the table!
As I rattled off reasons their families stuffing was obviously inferior, my mind would simultaneously register the fact that I had no solid reasons why ours is the best. What was the secret ingredient? Is there even a secret ingredient? Here is the famous Nanny’s Thanksgiving stuffing recipe:
1 loaf Sara Lee bread, left out for 3 days
1 large onion, minced
2 stalks celery, chopped small
4 t margarine
4 t bacon fat
2 ½ c hot water
3 ½ tsp Bell’s seasoning
1/8 tsp pepper
2 tsp salt
I can look at the recipe and notice a couple of distinct ingredients. Bread left out for 3 days is not a common start to stuffing. Bacon fat wouldn’t normally be found on a kitchen shelf. And Bell’s seasoning stands out, it is a New England seasoning mix of rosemary, oregano, sage, marjoram, ginger, thyme, and pepper. Apparently Martha Stewart uses Bell’s as her secret stuffing ingredient also, I wonder if Nanny is getting royalties?
But beyond the ingredients, my informal annual sampling of other people’s opinions of their families stuffings reveals something about taste. Taste is not an objective measurement. People’s perceptions of the taste of something is a complex mix of mood, emotion, feelings, and the experience. Thanksgiving is a happy (for most) celebration of family, and the good feelings and emotions of that time help to color the memory of how good the meal, and your grandmother’s stuffing, tastes. That is the only rational explanation you could think your family’s stuffing is better than Nanny’s.