This month's random fact gives us further insight into one of Thanksgivings most mysterious culinary traditions Stuffing the Turkey.
Some of the first references to this rather bizarre practice are found in ancient Roman texts pertaining to cooking. After dressing out whatever poor animal was destined for the table they would stuff the main cavity with anything from old bread mixed with spices to another smaller animal! Strange as this practice sounds there is some common sense behind it. Stuffing the cavity helps to retain moisture and therefore should help to produce a juicier product.
Stuffing as it was known kept both it's name and it's place of honor at dining tables everywhere until the victorians took umbrage at the name stuffing. It was so offensive to them that they changed the name to "dressing" and served it on the side instead of the traditional form, still in the bird. That was the beginning of the end for poor stuffing! Before too long someone figured out that while it does not taste exactly the same, the bird cooks faster without stuffing and the stuffing it's self can be cooked separately and more quickly as well.
The real death nell of traditional stuffing however was not the Victorians changing it's name or some over worked cook conniving to same time. It was the USDA! They claim that stuffing your Turkey at Thanksgiving does not allow the temperature to get high enough to throughly cook everything, possibly resulting in, GASP!, food poisoning! So Stove top Stuffing is now the be all and end all of stuffing and not many people stuff their turkeys anymore. Sad but true!
So on Thanksgiving day before you tuck into your turkey, ham, tofurkey or whatever it is that your family honors the holiday by eating, take a moment of silence for the once great side dish stuffing, aka, dressing.
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