Paganistan: Notes from the Secret Commonwealth

In Which One Midwest Man-in-Black Confers, Converses & Otherwise Hob-Nobs with his Fellow Hob-Men (& -Women) Concerning the Sundry Ways of the Famed but Ill-Starred Tribe of Witches.

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In Praise of Mom's Stuffing



Holidays are times of remembrance, and food bears memory.

(An anthropologist friend of mine once quipped, “You tell me what you eat at Christmas, and I'll tell you where your people come from.”)

So twelve will get you thirteen that your quintessential Thanksgiving food is your mother's stuffing, right?

Turkey, cranberries, pumpkin pie: these are much of a muchness, variations on a theme.

But stuffings, now...stuffings vary, and that's why for this holiday the real thing is always the way that mom used to make it. If you're hosting a Fourth of July potluck, expect everyone to bring potato salad. If you're hosting a Thanksgiving potluck, expect everyone to bring their mother's stuffing.

I gave up stuffing—and gravy—when I became vegetarian at 18. It took me decades to realize—well, duh—that both are actually really good food and that, no, you don't need meat to make either. (I will personally pit my brown onion-mushroom gravy against your turkey gravy any day of the lunar month. Any day.)

A few years back, my family actually had four kinds of stuffing on the Thanksgiving table.

My sister's, in the bird itself, was like mom always made hers (and her mother before her, hers, if memory serves: just how far back do these things go, one wonders): a dryish bread stuffing with celery, onion, paprika, a little sage.

(Chost like beck in Old Contry.)

Mine was the vegetarian iteration of ditto—technically, this would be a dressing rather than a stuffing, but let's lay that to the side for nowthough I also throw in an apple for a schmeck sweetness, and a handful of nuts for crunch. Hey, I'm a foodie; I can't help it.

My brother-in-law brought his mother's stuffing: bread, but with sausage and cranberries. And cousin Deb brought her mom's: also bread, but soft and gloopy: minimal vegetables, but sticks and sticks of butter. Yuck, both of them: way, way too rich.

And that's not even to mention cornbread stuffings, rice, wild rice, kasha, matza, name it.

Me, I've always felt ambivalent about Thanksgiving. Personally, I despise the Pilgrims, and everything that they stood for. (Believe me, the feeling was mutual: they didn't have much patience for our kind, either.) We've already had our Witches' Thanksgiving back at the Equinox, anyway.

But qua holiday, T-Day is actually a pretty savvy creation. Whatever your religion—if any—it's something that all Americans can do, and do together. In these fractious times, that's an inherent good, and better it be when we're sharing food. Everybody likes to eat.

So come, my friend, pull up a seat: let's eat, and remember together. Oh, and here, you definitely want some of my stuffing.

Some mushroom gravy, maybe, to go with it?




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Poet, scholar and storyteller Steven Posch was raised in the hardwood forests of western Pennsylvania by white-tailed deer. (That's the story, anyway.) He emigrated to Paganistan in 1979 and by sheer dint of personality has become one of Lake Country's foremost men-in-black. He is current keeper of the Minnesota Ooser.


  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham Monday, 15 November 2021

    I used to make rum-balls the last weekend of October and set them aside to age. Thanksgiving day was the day to open the cookie tin they were in.

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