12.09.2015

Sibling Assignment #172: The Controversy Surrounding Thanksgiving Dressing

Brother Bill gave the sibling assignment this week after some surprising observations during the planning, preparation, and presentation of dressing for the Thanksgiving Dinner. I will link the sibs' posts when done.

His assignment: "Turkey dressing.. Take this topic any direction you'd like."

As Thanksgiving approaches each year and the meal planning begins, the first question often raised is whether we call the traditional side dish dressing or stuffing. This in turn leads to the question whether a turkey should be stuffed or not. The last few years the most controversial question has been, "Can we try another recipe for dressing that hasn't been used in the past?" Scary territory.

We are a family that does traditional turkey in a roasting pan. No brining, BBQing, deep fat frying, no bag, no smoking. Just Betty Crocker style turkey is all that has been served for almost all Thanksgiving dinners. About ten years ago we went off course and used whole wheat bread for stuffing and served game hens. It was okay, but not the same. Last year Mom and I tried cornbread stuffing. That was quite a departure from tradition, but not "weird" (any time in our house when Raymond Harold "Pert"/Dad Woolum thought we were serving something new or different he called it "weird" or "weird shit food".  Experimenting with cornbread was only the bread, so he may have only said, while grimacing, "This is 'different' sissy." When food went out a window to the bushes or the loaf of white bread and peanut butter came out on the table, I understood I had gone too far on the "weird" scale for Dad. Thus, usually traditional dishes ruled.

This year I volunteered to roast the turkey since I had never done one. As I began planning the dinner I researched a wide variety of recipes for dressing. How daring could I be? Would the rafters fall on the table if I added new ingredients? I decided not to stuff the turkey. If it didn't work out I didn't want to ruin both. I focused on combinations of flavors and textures I thought would work. I am sure Dad was smiling down from heaven , pleased he didn't have to try "this weird shit."I chose Sweet Potato and Cranberry Dressing from a recipe found on a woman's blog. Mom had the dried bread she saves all year, a friend harvested fresh cranberries from a local lake, and I thought sweet potatoes partnered with carrots, onions, and rosemary sounded like a good combination. To add fresh flavor, I added orange juice and orange liqueur. Brother Bill loved it, JEJ was on board also and I liked it. Mom smiled and said, "Well... it is different. " I like weird and different.

Why does dressing only have to be served with turkey? Maybe I should have a dressing bakeoff another time of year and challenge family members to get creative!
You can find the recipe here.

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