EMMET MEARA

Stuffing: The good, the bad and the bad for you

Posted Oct. 21, 2011, at 4:34 p.m.

All right. I am an addict. The first step toward recovery comes from admission, they tell me.

I am powerless. I am a card-carrying couch potato, but I will even go out in the rain and snow to get some when I run out. I try to keep as much on hand as possible so that never happens. I can’t live without it.

No it’s not drugs, whiskey or even Sam Adams Oktoberfest. It’s instant stuffing.

I am a weak man.

In the bad old days, you only had stuffing when you packed a turkey with it, on Christmas and Thanksgiving. I preferred Pepperidge Farm cube stuffing. But I digress. I lived on Earth for about 60 years before I discovered instant stuffing. That was the day I was truly born.

With the holidays just over the horizon, there will be stuffing everywhere. Real stuffing. But what about the rest of the year?

When the holidays are far away, I buy the instant stuff in mass quantities from Sam’s Club. During a recent Patriots game I bought a (baked) turkey breast and made a pail of instant stuffing. I had turkey-stuffing sandwich on Sunday (several), Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday I had turkey hash. Talk about comfort food. Stuffing passes meatloaf, if only slightly.

There is always someone to rain on your parade. Daughter Bridget is the youngest in the family, but is the boss. Always has been, almost since birth. She is so concerned with nutrition that the perfect grandchildren have not been to McDonald’s. Not once.

When I slipped about my stuffing jones, she had one word. Poison. Read the label, she insisted. She pointed me to a website, Macheesmo.com. I knew I shouldn’t. But I checked it out.

Macheesmo.com listed the ingredients in instant stuffing. The first ingredient was enriched wheat flower, which sounded fine to me. Enriched, right? The site explained that whole wheat flour is really the way to go since the natural qualities of flour are removed from enriched flour to establish longer shelf life, then a few vitamins are added so they can call it “enriched.” Next was degermed yellow corn meal, with most of the wheat germ and hull removed. The third ingredient was our old friend high fructose corn syrup, which almost makes the stuffing a kind of candy — no wonder I love it so.

I don’t know much, but if I see corn syrup on the label, I place the item back on the shelf.

The instant stuffing has tons of salt. The minuscule ingredients include partially hydrogenated soybean oil, vital wheat gluten, yeast, malt dextrin (sugar), just enough celery and parsley to add to the label, MSG, unidentified “spice” and sugar on top of the corn syrup and malt dextrin (no wonder I love it). There are faint traces of “cooked chicken and chicken broth” but hardly enough to mention, the site reports. One of the last items is BHA-BHT, which are derived from petroleum and are not recommended by Macheesmo.com. Naturally, the product has unspecified “preservatives.”

I am so stupid, I expected bread, chicken and some broth. What do I know?

My life is over. I may have instant stuffing again, but I will never enjoy it — as much.

But Bridget is wise. She said, through my tears, that there are organic products available. Organic stuffing.

I sniffed around and with the help of daughter Aran, who is a high priestess at Whole Foods, discovered Arrowhead Mills organic stuffing. I checked the label, natch.

Check this: organic wheat flour, organic sunflower oil, organic cracked what, organic evaporated cane juice (sugar), organic cracked rye, sea salt, organic dehydrated onions, organic spices, thyme, rosemary and yeast. May contain organic rosemary extract for maintaining freshness.

I must admit that list sounds a lot better. I haven’t tried it yet, but you and I know it will never taste as good as the “poison.”

Have a nice holiday. Pass the gravy and BHA-BHT.

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