Soul food—thoughts from the inside

Turkey stuffing, figs, and new ideas…

I have disliked figs since I was about 10 years old. I had never tried them before that, but that was the year that the fig tree in my own backyard bore ripe fruit. We had all kinds of fruit trees that my grandfather (an amazing planter of wisdom and trees) and father had labored religiously to bring to fruit; pomegranates, mulberries, apricots, peaches—we were truly spoiled when it came to summer abundance—a swimming pool and all you could eat fruit. But when the fig tree finally started to bare mature fruit I was one disgusted 10 year-old. When ripe, a fig will start to drip tiny bits of its luscious juice on the outside of its skin, to the ground and down the trunk. And when you bite into it, the flesh is almost meaty with its fullness and with little black seeds, almost like a kiwi fruit.

To my undeveloped and immature tastebuds the fig was quite disgusting—all that sticky juice, meaty flesh and obvious seeds—a little too much evidence of the messy, juicy, procreative ways of life. And I never even considered biting into one since then. Literal decades went by until my sensibilities entertained the possibility that it might not be the fig, it might be me. Happily, last summer as I dined with friends on a patio in bountiful, utah of all places—with chickens roosting in the trees, and the sun setting over the great salt lake, I was given the chance to revisit my definition of delight. My earthy hostess served a plate of ripe fig slices with brie and herbed crustinis—I hesitatingly bit into one and my tongue jumped in happy surprise. How mouth-wateringly delicious, what a jolt to my prior belief; how was it possible that this fruit of such offending history had made this miraculous shift in flavor?

Or was it me? …could it be that now from this place of experience and experiment, my tastebuds were finally ready to savor the deep and intense flavors the fig had to offer? Yesterday, as my family–extended, uproarious and exclamatory sat to enjoy thanksgiving dinner this lesson made its way into my conscious layers.

I had made the turkey stuffing for the festivities according to no recipe at all. I just started adding things that I knew should go in, and a few things that possibly shouldn’t—resulting in what I thought was a pretty good dish. Both my sister, who hated stuffing for years, and my brother-in-law, who treats it with a mild disregard, licked their plates clean of their turkey stuffing, went back for more; finding that our devouring party had made quick work of it and finished off the entire plate.

This morning in the shower it came to me, as brilliant thoughts often do, that sometimes we form an opinion or preference from a very certain frame of mind and we take that opinion on as a belief. Life will often present many opportunities to delve into our beliefs, see if there isn’t a different way we could look at them, or perhaps another opinion that might be formed if our frame of mind is different. And for myself, I often ignore those offerings, turn my nose with disdain, reject the experience out of hand because I know better. My beliefs will not set me loose to try something new, or something old from a new point of view.

Aha, but I will. With my newfound love of figs and excellent turkey stuffing recipe in hand, I recognize the chance to set loose my old beliefs, and try on each experience as if for the first time is a gift of sublime proportions. And for this I truly give thanks.

New Perspective Turkey Stuffing

  • 1 lb sweet Italian turkey sausage (or Morningstar for the vegetarian inclined—might want to marinate this in maple syrup and chili powder for more flavor) browned and drained and chopped
  • 2 yellow onions finely chopped and sautéed in butter
  • 2 stalks celery–chopped
  • 4 fresh apples with skin (I chose granny smith for a sweet sharp flavor—choose your personal favorite) chopped
  • 1 pkg button mushrooms (can change to oyster mushrooms for truly decadent flavor) sliced
  • 1 cup pecans diced
  • 1 cup cranberries ( I was in a pinch and used a cup of granola with cranberries in it)
  • 6 cornbread muffins (from any old packet will do, just cooked and dried out)
  • 1 pkg. stuffing bread (not from a box, just the kind with cubes of bread from bakery section)
  • Ground sage, dill seed, celery salt, thyme, parsley, cracked salt and pepper
  • 2 cans chicken broth
  • 4-8 tbls. Maple syrup
  • ½ c. sweetened coconut
  • 2-3 eggs beaten

Chop and slice all but the breads in large frying pan, on medium heat, sautee entire mix with butter until warm and bubbling. Add in corn bread and bread cubes and pour chicken broth over entire mix. I always add heaps and heaps of spices, but you can start with 1 tbs. of sage, dill and thyme and maybe 2 tsp of the others. This is truly a to your taste experiment

Finally add in eggs, syrup and coconut and mix thoroughly. Stuff as much of mix as possible into cavity of the turkey and cook with bird, if you are overly sensitive to this approach, heat in a casserole dish until warm throughout—approx. 30 min. @ 350