Wednesday, November 24, 2010

'Tis the Unseasoned

Thanksgiving. It's here again. Tomorrow, yeah!

It's that time when most Americans fire up that seldom-used appliance, the range, and roast a 20 pound bird. This even includes most people for whom "cooking dinner" means sticking a London broil that Whole Foods marinated for you into the oven for an hour.

I, too, will be conforming to this most American of traditions, though the only turkey for which I'm personally responsible will be deep fried in glorious peanut oil. But I am also supposed to be making the stuffing for the other bird, which shall be roasted. The reasons for this division of labor are political in nature.

I love stuffing. It is so gooey and delicious and soaks up all the best parts of the bird. It's good by itself, with turkey, on sandwiches. It's good hot or cold. It's especially good to snack on in the middle of the night. But not all stuffings are created equal.

Stuffing comes in many forms, from Stove Top, which is something I ate at 3 AM when I was in college, to "do it yourself" which involves baking a loaf of just the right kind of bread, letting it get stale, and chopping it up into cubes. Or, if you happen to be a "homesteader" or something, using the stale bread that you already have since of course you make all your own food and waste nothing.

My personal level of cooking patience falls slightly on the easier side of doing it all myself. That means, I want to get a bag of bread that's already stale and cut into cubes. I don't want to dry out my own bread or worry about getting the right kind of bread and wonder if it will be the right texture after I let it sit for a week. And also hope it doesn't have any psychedelic mold spores growing on it by that time.

So I leave those basics to some industrial baker, but I want to season it myself with some fresh veggies, herbs and spices.

It has become nearly impossible to buy unseasoned stuffing.

I went to no less than five supermarkets before finding the holy grail you see pictured above: a bag of unseasoned bread cubes.

I finally got it an Snider's, a little independent supermarket in Silver Spring. This was after trying:

  • Giant? Negative. Only seasoned stuffing from Pep. Farm and Arnold's.
  • Safeway? Negative. Safeway actually sells their own brand of stuffing, that looks sorta homemade, but it is just as doused in dried onions and stale celery powder as every other brand they sell.
  • Whole Foods? Negative. I had high hopes, but despite dealing with the insane crowds and pompous people, struck out again. Oh, they have their own brand too, "365 Everyday Value Organic Stuffing Mix"... traditional flavor. That means, of course, dried onions and "organic chicken flavor" whatever that is. Does that mean, it tastes like organic chicken? Is that different than "Purdue chicken flavor?" Could you have "organic Purdue chicken flavor," that is a fully-organic flavoring that tastes like Purdue chickens?

Anyway. It seems that, these days, most people are not interested in even the most basic of cooking tasks: chopping up some stuff and throwing it into your stuffing so it doesn't taste like it came from Boston Market.

It's not exactly rocket science. In fact, it's probably the easiest part of the whole meal. So why is it near impossible to find some bread cubes that haven't been infected with the contents of Pizzeria Uno's spice drawer?

Just tell me the truth, people. Am I the only one left on earth who is interested in seasoning my own stuffing?

The bag I bought was the only one in the entire store. This means one of two things. They were all sold out because it's incredibly popular, or they only had one bag at all. When I asked at each of the other three markets if they had "unseasoned stuffing" the employees generally stared at me as if I'd asked if they sold ostrich relish.

I'm guessing they sold one bag of unseasoned stuffing this year. I should probably check the date, it's probably been there since 1998.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! May your bellies be stuffed, whatever that stuffing be made of.


Over the River said...

Nice post thanks. As to "It's that time when most Americans fire up that seldom-used appliance, the range, and roast a 20 pound bird."

Actually they fire up the oven. The range (also known as a cook-top) is a cooking appliance with gas or electric "burners".

An oven, a range and a stove are three different things which can be confused as one item. An oven is a chamber in the kitchen used for baking, roasting or some other type of cooking. A stove, or cook-top, has four to six electric or gas burners. A range is a stove sold on top of an oven. There are benefits to owning both and one is not necessarily better than the other, but certain kitchen layouts and certain types of cooking lend themselves better to an oven than a range and vice versa. There are specific uses for a range and an oven in both home kitchens and restaurants. ~ from eHow

Jamie said...

Thank you for the correction. I'm glad that the most significant complaint that someone had my post was in the use of the word "range." This is a substantial improvement from the norm.

Though all the online dictionaries I checked define it as the appliance itself, and not just the burners, which is a "cooktop" as you observe, technically, I did not use the word incorrectly. For example,

"a large portable or stationary cooking stove having burners built into the top surface and containing one or more ovens. "

That means, in fact, that "firing up the range" could include one or more of using the oven, using the cooktop, or setting the prairies of Kansas on fire. My usage was the first of these three.

Anyhow, it seems clear from my online research into the use of the word "range" that it's at least arguably an appliance containing an oven, so at this point I will leave those five letters intact.