Eat Well: Countdown to Thanksgiving = Stuffing + Gravy + Dilemma Solved!

The following post was written by my mother, WWW. Thanks, mom. You rule the roost. (Ha!)
Thank you for all of your insightful comments on last week’s post. I think you're right. I have to either tell everyone there won’t be a turkey at Thanksgiving and give people the option of bringing their own or cook one myself. The problem with having someone else bring the turkey is that I will have no control over where that turkey came from. It is frightening and unethical the way most turkeys are raised these days. I don’t really want to get into the graphic details right now, but for those of you interested, go here.

So…I have embarked on a quest to find a turkey that lived as much of its life as possible in a pasture and can actually walk without breaking its legs and hips. Today I have the time to really research this as I am at the hospital with my dear mother (Rebecca’s Nana) while she is getting a shoulder replacement (the doctor just informed me that the operation was easy as pie! Yay!) I will only buy a turkey from a farm where I can actually see the grass with my own eyes, either on a video of the farm or in photos. I have been known to even call farms and ask the farmer exactly how the animals are raised. I learned from reading Michael Pollan and Jonathan Foer that free range and organic are misleading terms and don’t have anything to do with humanely raised meat so I am very wary of any claims of any meat markets as to how their meat is raised. For instance, I just called a local “sustainable” meat market selling Samuel’s Ranch “free range” turkeys for Thanksgiving. When I searched the Internet to find out about this farm, it turned out that Samuel’s Ranch is a fancy name for Zacky Farms and Zacky Farms is a factory farm!!

After that discovery, I was almost ready to give up, completely disgusted with the deceptive practices of the food industry. But that is when I discovered HERITAGE turkeys!

Here is the definition of a heritage turkey.

Heritage turkeys are more expensive (about $5-$8/pound) but they should be…The animals are not genetically modified to grow big breasts in two months. They must live at least 28 weeks before they are slaughtered and can actually reproduce themselves (yes, it’s true…the turkey you buy in the grocery store was artificially inseminated because the factory farm turkeys have been bred to have such huge breasts that they are too heavy to mount each other, let alone walk). Heritage turkeys can stand and run around like turkeys were meant to and they aren’t filled with antibiotics and hormones. They are raised in conformance with humane practices and traditional farming.

It seems to me, serving a heritage turkey is about as close as a person can get to the meaning of our ancestral Thanksgiving dinner. And really, with all of the other dishes I am cooking, we don’t need a big bird, especially since only 7 people will eat it, anyway.

After great deliberation and too much thinking, I have decided that buying a heritage turkey is probably more aligned with my ethics than letting someone else bring their own turkey because my decision to not eat meat is wrapped up entirely in the ethics of how meat is raised, bred and processed. The brand I have decided to buy is Mary’s heritage because it is from my state and easy to get locally, but you can find many different brands by going to this website or google “heritage turkeys YOUR STATE” to find a local farm. Make sure you order NOW as there is a limited supply of them. Make sure your turkey says HERITAGE and not HEIRLOOM. Diestel has an heirloom turkey which is basically the same breed as the factory farm turkeys, not able to mate and hybridized to grow quickly with large breasts. Diestel is selling them as “heirloom” so people will think they are heritage. I got this off of the heritage turkey site:
“The fact remains that [Deistel turkeys] can be raised faster, with less feed, and they can therefore be sold cheaper, to drive genuine heritage turkeys out of the marketplace.”
We should all be writing to our congressmen so that the food industry will stop these deceptive practices!!! If you are as outraged as I am by all of this, join local harvest or slow foods or go to Michael Pollan’s website for a plethora of ways to get involved in food policy.

OK…I promise that I am done with the turkey debate!

I am going to make my traditional stuffing in a crock-pot (not in the turkey) so that everyone, vegetarians and carnivores alike, will be able to eat it. This stuffing recipe comes from my grandmother and is made with corn flakes. I have no idea where she got it, but she grew up in Chicago and it’s possible that it was a mid-western recipe or that her mother thought it up (especially since corn flakes were invented when she was 6). It’s much lighter than a traditional bread stuffing and has a great flavor. Make sure you use Kellogg’s corn flakes. I’ve tried it with other varieties and it doesn’t turn out as well, unfortunately.

As I said in my last week’s post, I have never written this recipe down before. All of the herb measurements are approximate since I just throw everything in. I use lots of herbs to taste, so keep tasting it until it tastes right to you. (Before you add the raw egg!) This was my favorite job as a kid…figuring out if there was enough herbs to make it flavorful! You can also leave out the egg. It will fall apart a little more, but it still will be delicious!

Traditional Recipe: Mimi’s stuffing
1/2 cup butter or olive oil
2 onions, chopped
1 BUNCH celery, tops and bottoms cut off, chopped
2 bunches parsley, washed and chopped fine, thick stalks removed (I use food processor)
18 oz Kellogg’s corn flakes
¼ cup raisins or currants (optional—you can also add a chopped and peeled apple)
2-4 teaspoons dried whole sage or 1 T fresh (or to taste)
2-4 teaspoons fresh rosemary, chopped or 1 t whole dried (crunched up)
2 teaspoons thyme
2 teaspoons marjoram
Juice of half a lemon
1 egg, beaten
2 cup vegetable broth (about)
Toasted pine nuts or toasted almonds
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Cook onions in butter until soft.
2. Add celery and continue cooking until soft but not brown:
3. Put in LARGE bowl or soup pot with parsley, currents and herbs.
4. Add corn flakes and lemon and mix well (with your hands), adding salt and pepper to taste and adjusting herbs to your liking. Add eggs and mix well.
Normally, this is when you would stuff the above contents into the turkey, but we're going to cook it in a crock-pot, instead.

Add 1 cup of broth and cook on low in crock-pot for about an hour, adding more broth as needed. When it’s done, you shouldn’t be able to tell that it's made from corn flakes:

For this next (vegetarian) gravy, I basically adapted my traditional turkey gravy recipe substituting roasted onions and mushrooms for the meat drippings and mushroom broth for the turkey broth. I made it this morning and it turned out amazing! I am going to freeze it until Thanksgiving so I have one less thing to make at the last minute.

New Recipe: Wendy’s Mushroom gravy
½ cup butter or olive oil (I used goat butter)
1 large onion, cut into chunks
12 oz flavorful mushrooms, such as crimini, sliced
½ cup flour
2 cups mushroom broth
2 cups water or vegetable broth
1 T Better than Bouillon mushroom base

Preheat oven to 425. Put a ¼ cup butter or oil in a large roasting pan and add onions, coating on all sides.
onions in chunks, smothered with butter or oil
Turn oven down to 350 and roast until brown and around the edges, about 30 minutes. Add mushrooms and continue cooking until mushrooms are brown (about 10 more minutes).
use flavorful mushrooms, such as crimini or shitake
When onions are brown around the edges, add mushrooms and brown
When the mushrooms are done, put pan on stove and add rest of butter and melt over two medium flames.
Add flour to stir till you get a roux.
Cook over medium-high until the flour starts to brown, stirring constantly. Add the mushroom base and stir. Take off heat and add broth and water, a LITTLE at a time, stirring constantly so no lumps form.
At this point, you can transfer gravy into a pot. Cook stirring constantly until the gravy comes to a boil. Turn down and stir until thick. Add a few tablespoons of wine to taste if desired.
Makes 4 cups gravy!

To be continued….



Amanda | 9:36 PM

Your mom is seriously the coolest. Is there anyway she could be my mother-in-law? I already have a wonderful mother and a great husband...I'm just missing that special, older woman/MIL type in my life and I think she just might fit the bill. You think she's accepting applications? I've got a cute toddler she can make dresses for!! ;)

Wendy Woolf | 10:55 PM

Aww...Amanda, I will be your adoptive MIL anytime! Hugs, Wendy

Alexia | 10:59 PM

Thank you, WWW. I always love your recipes.

I've considered myself vegetarian for years (and even vegan at one point). But in the past couple years, I have moments when I'll eat meat, mostly chicken, when I'm at really really low points. So it's completely tied to my issues with disordered eating.
However, I've never been able to understand the argument of eating animals in a kinder way. It seems contradictory? I mean, if we find it unkind to eat a living creature, why seek a kinder way to do it? Is it for the sake of our conscience?
Thanks again, WWW. Made your eggplant-egg recipe yesterday!


Amy @ babybabylemon | 11:03 PM

Heritage turkeys made me think of this because the family raised them, but might I suggest the book Animal, Vegetable, Mineral by Barbara Kingsolver. It is amazing at utterly changed the way I think about food. Even more than Michael Pollen.

And wishing you the happiest and yummiest Thanksgiving, whatever you decide to do.

Wendy Woolf | 11:27 PM

I LOVED Animal, Vegetable, Mineral...thanks for mentioning it. And Alexia, I have a problem with cruelty to animals and raising animals in a way that creates suffering and I don't eat meat myself. I just wanted to give an alternative to people who are going to eat meat anyway. This is a very touchy subject, I realize,but people are always going to eat meat so I am hoping that with education, meat eaters will start choosing and demanding meat that has been raised ethically.

Sara | 7:19 AM

Lord almighty. Cornflake stuffing with marjoram and pine nuts? From the crock pot? That sound you hear is my Gramma spinning in her grave. But to each their own. ;)

We reserve a locally raised heritage turkey every year around July. To be honest I don't know many decent cooks, especially here in the South, who don't seek out a fresh local turkey from a small farm--the factory-farmed frozen ones are injected with a weird sodium solution that totally screws with the brining process.

Crystal | 7:28 AM

I am a meat eater, born and raised. I don't care where my meat comes from, was raised or killed. Have you toured a farm where these practices were being done? Did you inform yourself with the farmer or just believe a website, a local documentary or your friends? I believe they call this propoganada. I grew up on a poultry farm. While you may think debeaking is cruel as it uses a hot blade to slice the beak, it is like cutting a toe/finger nail on yourself. Painless, unless you cut too close, which I'm sure you've never done to yourself or your children (or a pet). It also protects the birds from pecking each other to death as they have a "gang" mentality and very easily pick on a weaker bird.
I enjoy reading your food suggestions, but this post really frustrated me.

The Lady's Lounge | 9:10 AM

Looks great!
One of the things that frustrates me the most about being vegan is how many times I have been in a situation where I feel like I have to accommodate or apologize to meat eaters for being a vegetarian.

It took me years to overcome but now I can't believe I ever said
sorry to somebody for refusing to contribute to the misery, torture and slaughter of other living things.

I have a web site called Sweet Vegan with an awesome vegan rice stuffing on it if you're interested:

Rose | 9:50 AM

I love these Eat Well posts. So great. Wendy/ Rebecca, I'm wondering if you have any info on fish? I'm thinking of switching from meat to fish, for ethical reasons, but I'm not sure how fish are farmed, or whether 'organic' or 'sustainable' fishing means anything. Would love to know your thoughts.


Rose - I'll let my mom answer that one - my non-meat eating reasons are slightly different from my mothers. For me it's always been more existential (that sounds super arrogant, I realize) than anything - I can't physically stomach the idea of eating flesh, imagining where it came from, how it was killed etc. It kills my appetite. (No pun intended. Ish.) I'm all for the environmental sustainability argument but it doesn't apply to me because I won't eat meat no matter how sustainable it is.

Fish is a tough one because I've dabbled in fish eating on and off for the past sixteen years since cutting meat out of my diet. I never had the same issues with fish that I did with other meats until recently.

Anyway, I'll let my mom answer the fish question because she's done her homework x 890890234.

Katie | 10:25 AM

Hey, WWW, I just want to mention, as a local, that Curtis Womach at the Hillcrest Farmer's Market raises the most amazing poultry the exact way they are supposed to be raised. And it shows in the flavor. His chickens and turkeys are simply amazing. They are basically the only birds I will eat (which isn't very frequently, we eat too much chicken in this country!).

I know as of couple of weeks ago he was taking reservations for Thanksgiving if you want to check him out.

Anonymous | 10:27 AM

This is all incredibly informative and useful. Last year, we made eggplant parmesan because we had vegetarian friends over, and I admit that I missed the turkey. But it's hard to get behind a holiday that supports the senseless abuse of an animal that's meant to symbolize something entirely different in the narrative about sharing and thankfulness. I just looked up the heritage turkey options in Louisiana, and there are many. THANK YOU!!

Wendy Woolf | 11:20 AM

Hi, Rose. Fish is a big dilemma. Jonathan Foer has really done his homework on this topic and you can read his info in his book "Eating Animals." Monterrey Bay Aquarium has a great website called "Seafood Watch" and they update you as to what fish is sustainable and low in heavy metals. But even that website doesn't tell the whole story. I recommend reading Foer's book, checking out Seafood Watch, and then researching yourself to see what you are comfortable with.

abbiejoy | 11:45 AM

You inspired me to buy a heritage turkey. I just ordered from my local butcher. Thanks for the info!

wonderchris | 1:30 PM

OMG - this is TOO funny. Fable at school in a couple of years!

Love your heart for produce and wildlife that is good for the soul!!

Amanda | 2:52 PM

I just need to say it- I love your mom. Not only are her recipes AMAZING (we've been eating her black bean soup/chili out the yang lately!) but I'm in love with how ethical and educated she is when it comes to food, which is something (I feel) we should all strive for, for a multitude of reasons. I'm comfortable giving her recipes to my vegan friends and my meat loving friends and both are always satisfied. And I've noticed that since reading these, I've been much more discerning and thus have been feeling healthier. So thank you. And thank you Wendy for your knowledge, your food and Rebecca. You're both amazing.

Wendy Woolf | 11:04 PM

Thank you, Amanda. You made my day! :)

P. Gardiner | 9:16 PM

Michael POLLAN, with an A, also the tiny dried fruits are currants, not currents.


Thanks, P. Typos have been changed.