I have a newfound friend who grew up somewhere above the Mason-Dixon Line and the other evening we were discussing our relative menus for Thanksgiving Day.
Bless her heart, I got past the part where she said she was going to fix mashed potatoes. (I come from a long line of rice and gravy gurus. A bowl of mashed potatoes in the middle of my Thanksgiving dining room table? No more a chance of that than a plastic ketchup bottle and a cookie sheet teeming with Tater Tots.)
But I smiled a sweet smile and said that sounded nice which, of course, meant that it didn’t sound nice at all.
But what did me in was when this dear lady said she was going to fix “stuffing.”
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Sorry, but I’m a South Carolinian. Stuffing is what you do when you go to the State Fair and eat two corn dogs, a batch of Fiske Fries, and a fried elephant ear topped off with plenty of powdered sugar.
The fact is, that bready concoction is called dressing and you stuff it inside the turkey’s gut and cook the whole kit and caboodle and hope that you don’t die from salmonella or some such thing because of the dressing being undercooked which, quite frankly, I believe is some kind of urban myth created by those who serve stuffing and mashed potatoes and God forbid, gravy out of a glass jar.
Store-bought gravy? You might as well blend together Elmer’s Glue and brown paint. I have spent years perfecting gravy from the ground up – meaning, from the bottom of the turkey roaster where all the good, greasy ingredients are – and will consider my mission on this earth done when my two children finally manage to perform the same small, sumptuous miracle.
But I digress.
Butterball, the turkey company, has come up with a dressing vs. stuffing map of the United States. Politics aside – and anyway, it’s not a polite thing to talk about at the dinner table – yellow means you live in a stuffing state. Blue means a dressing state.
South Carolina comes up yellow. A note at the bottom of the map says, “This survey was conducted online with a random sample 1,000 men and women in 9 regions...”
Now I don’t know who those 1,000 men and women are, but bless their hearts too, ’cause they’ve got it all butter-balled up.
According to my own little ol’ poll of Southern-through-and-through friends, we do dressing down here. So there you go. South Carolina is a dressing state. Not a stuffing state.
Same as we’re a barefooted, holey moley and mustard-based barbecue state. A boiled peanut state. A spigot state. A back stoop and shut or cut off the lights state.
An ice (no need to say sweet) tea state. A fixin’ to state. A butterbean, Duke’s Mayonnaise, run on outside and play, sit a spell, yes ma’am and no ma’am, pull over for a funeral procession, good dawg and dern it, y’all, this is real dang good kind of state.
I mean, it’s supper, not dinner. Crick not creek. Shopping buggy not grocery cart.
Britches not pants. Fetch not get. Darn near not almost. Cattywampus not crooked.
Hankerin’ not hoping.
And dadgummit, dressing, not stuffing.
So count me glad to live in what Butterball should know better’n to call a yellow state. Well, I reckon I should say a yaller state.
Aw right den.
Y’all have a good Thanksgiving, you hear?
Salley McAden McInerney is a local writer whose novel, Journey Proud, is based upon growing up in Columbia in the early 1960s. Ms. McInerney may be reached by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.