As happens every November, I saw heated debates pop up on social media this week, tearing families apart and threatening our mental health. They’re not memes or post questions about politics, or COVID regulations, or even the validity of “Die Hard” being categorized as a Christmas movie. They are posts about how people from different regions do things differently during the holidays.
Do you serve dressing or stuffing? What do you call that pink congealed salad grandma makes … or is your version green? Or orange?
It gets scary out there y’all. I decided to share links to my past columns that help answer some of the basics about how we do holidays in the South. Hopefully, we can prevent any bloodshed between loved ones. If you have other questions about food or traditions you need answered, comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
If Southern Thanksgivings were Hallmark movies, here’s what they’d look like
Excerpt: Everyone loves those heartwarming Christmas movies Hallmark is known for. But sometimes we rush into Christmas without even giving Thanksgiving a chance. (I talked about that a little bit here.)
There just aren’t that many Hallmark movies about Thanksgiving, so we decided to give the network some ideas for movies we’d enjoy here in the South. Read the entire column here.
Canned cranberry sauce is the best cranberry sauce
Excerpt: Last year, a columnist wrote on It’s a Southern Thing that canned cranberry sauce “is the devil.” While I fully respect other folks’ opinions, I felt those poor canned cranberries needed someone to stand up for them. They might feel neglected or even get a case of low shelf-esteem. They already grow up in a bog, bereft of the Southern sun. Should we really kick a fruit when it’s down?
I elected myself to write a defense, mainly because canned cranberry sauce reminds me of my Georgia grandmothers’ holiday table.
For me, the trend of making sure everything on the table is “organic” or “haute cuisine” is a bit showy. Like those high-falutin’ bowls of freshly squished cranberries mixed with dried figs and candied orange peels or topped with pecans. Really? That’s just putting on airs, if you ask me, and might make people too big for their britches in more ways than one. Read the entire column here.
Why do we ‘devil’ eggs?
Excerpt: When I was a kid, my dad loved a deviled-ham sandwich. The little tins wrapped in a white wrapper decorated with the Underwood red devil were a familiar site in our cupboard.
I ate my fair share of deviled ham as a child, although I haven’t had any in decades. My favorite is by far deviled eggs, and I adore deviled crab. And, of course, devil’s food cake. But why, I wondered recently, are these foods referred to as “deviled?”
It turns out, “deviling,” at least in the case of eggs and ham and crab, has to do with the way they’re made, mixing meat or egg yolk with a variety of seasonings. Read the full column here.
Let’s debate dressing vs. stuffing shall we?
Excerpt: If you’re like me – Southern born and (corn)bred – there really is no debate: It’s dressing. Period. Full stop. Over and out. But some people often wonder about the use of the differing words for what is essentially the exact same dish and that’s why we’re going to talk about it today.
Before we discuss the origins of word usage in different regions and share some recipes, let’s answer the question of which regions of the country use dressing and which use stuffing. As you’d expect, dressing is more common in the south. But surprisingly, according to Butterball.com, only eight southern states use the word “dressing” more than “stuffing:” In Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky, “dressing” is preferred 62 percent to 38 percent. In Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma, “dressing” is preferred 52 percent to 47 percent (the other percent is unaccounted for. Perhaps they say tur-dress-stuff or something).
In all other regions, “stuffing” beats the stuffing out of “dressing.” Butterball says, “Whatever you call it, we can all agree it’s delicious.” Well, duh. Read the full column here.
That Pink Stuff you grandma makes for holiday meals has a real name
Excerpt: If I walked up to you and asked if your family’s Christmas meal included the Pink Stuff, you would probably get the reference right away. Right? I mean, right after you wondered why I was stopping you randomly on the street and getting all up in your family’s bidness.
What I’m saying is, if you Google “pink stuff,” the only things that come up are a kind of all-purpose cleaner and a gabillion recipes for a type of congealed salad typically served at family holiday dinner. Even Kraft has a recipe for Pink Stuff on its website.
Someone mentioned the other day that their grandmother always makes Pink Stuff at Christmas so, as a dedicated journalist with a responsibility to keep the public informed, I set out to determine if the Pink Stuff has a real name. After some in-depth research, by which I mean clicking on the fourth link I came to, I found a name. It’s scary. I’m not sure I should even repeat it because you may never eat the Pink Stuff again. But I promised, so … here goes: It’s called Cheese Salad. Cheese Salad! What the … wha…?
They didn’t call it Strawberry-infused Clouds of Yumminess from Heaven. They didn’t call it Cool-Whip Paradise. They didn’t even call it Congealed Salad, which, with its perfectly horrifying name still manages to be a more appetizing name for a dessert than Cheese Salad. Just sayin.’ Read the full column here.
And for good measure, I’m throwing in this one …
In defense of Thanksgiving, the middle-child of the holiday season
Excerpt: It has to stop, y’all. For too long, the day after Halloween has signaled the time to break out the Christmas décor. But we don’t really need six weeks to set up the tree and the nativity and inflate the blow-man family in the yard – that’s just what retailers want us to believe. (Although, really, go ahead and unpack the lights … it could take that long just to untangle them.)
Just because stores start by piping in Bing Crosby as soon as the trick-or-treaters are in bed doesn’t mean we have to take the bait. Could we stop for just one moment and consider the feelings of poor Thanksgiving?
My hubby, Sweetums, doesn’t think of Thanksgiving as a proper holiday. He likens it to being the middle child of the holiday family, stuffed between Halloween and Christmas. It got me thinking about the episode of “The Brady Bunch” in which Jan suffered middle-child syndrome. I imagine that is just how Thanksgiving feels – stomping its feet and saying in an envious whine: “Christmas, Christmas, Christmas!” But you can’t slap a wig on Thanksgiving and call it a day. It’s already different. It already has its own merits. Yet, we have treated Thanksgiving unforgivably. Click here to read the full column.