From the NYTimes: Ruth M. Siems, Inventor of Stuffing, Dies at 74. Well, strictly speaking, Ms. Siems didn't invent stuffing -- she co-invented Stove Top brand stuffing. Which, apparently, has only been available for about thirty years.
This is a weird article. It's hard to tell whether it's an obituary or a seasonal puff piece. Siems died on Nov. 13, so presumably the Times has had more than a week to sit on this. The author, Margalit Fox, put the time to good use, interviewing various food historians and pegging Stove Top's peculiar essence and appeal:
I can imagine people wanting to be freed from "the yoke of Thanksgiving," but who knew that this applied to stuffing too? Nevertheless, Stove Top wanted some things about its stuffing to be tied down: Siems' design for the bread crumb (called "Instant Stuffing Mix") is covered under United States Patent No. 3,870,803. "The nature of the cell structure and overall texture of the dried bread crumb employed in this invention is of great importance if a stuffing which will hydrate in a matter of minutes to the proper texture and mouthfeel is to be prepared."
Stove Top's premise is threefold. First, it offers speed.
Second, it divorces the stuffing from the bird, sparing cooks the nasty business of having to root around in the clammy interior of an animal.
Third, it frees stuffing from the yoke of Thanksgiving; it can be cooked and eaten on a moment's notice any day of the year.
In related news, my new noise-rock band Mouthfeel will be touring the southwest in the spring.