Grief Recipe Stories: Mom's Thanksgiving Stuffing

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by Raquel Baetz

“No more," my mom used to plead with us kids (and my Dad) to stop picking at the stuffing sticking out of the turkey’s bottom as she took it out of the oven. The crispy top was the best part and worth risking a finger burn to pinch a piece.

There was nothing fancy about my Mom’s Thanksgiving stuffing recipe. It was just like her: everyone’s favorite, but nothing fancy.

The recipe came from my Mom’s Mom. Grandmom’s food prep always consisted of “using up” whatever needed “eating up,” so I don’t think there was an official recipe for this or anything else she ever made.

You had to start early on Thanksgiving morning with chopping celery and onions. We were usually still in pajamas. Mom would be distracted with all the details of dinner for 20 to 40 people (depending on the year and who would be in town), so we didn’t talk much while we chopped.

It didn’t matter, I just liked having a reason to be near her.

Once she gave me the okay that I’d chopped everything small enough, it would go into the pan to be cooked down with a ton of butter. I’d stir as she prepped the turkey, searched for serving dishes, and put the cloth turkey head on a pineapple–her signature centerpiece.

Next, the bags of breadcrumbs would be poured into one of her army-sized pots. The celery and onions would be poured over that, followed by chicken broth and several raw eggs.

Then I’d squish it all together with my fingers, adding broth or another egg as needed to make it soft.

“Is that good?” I’d ask. She’d give it a look and say, “Yeah, that’s good.” My mom never worried too much about the details. Getting the twenty-five pound bird in the oven in time to feed all those people so that there was still enough daylight after the meal for a long walk–that’s what she cared about.

The stuffing went into the back of the bird, and anything left over got cooked separately. Her stuffing always got “eaten up.” There was never enough of it.

Whenever I make the stuffing now, I always think of my Mom and Grandmom. When I’m squishing the soft breadcrumbs between my fingers, I usually end up dropping a few tears into the mix, but I think that makes it taste even better.

Mom's Thanksgiving Stuffing

Recipe by Raquel Baetz

There’s nothing fancy about my Mom’s Thanksgiving stuffing recipe. It’s just like she was – everyone’s favorite, but nothing fancy. This recipe came from my Mom’s Mom. Grandmom’s food prep always consisted of “using up” whatever needed “eating up”, so there’s never been an official recipe.


  • 2 big bags ready-made breadcrumbs (use flavored if you like)

  • 2 big yellow onions

  • big bunch of celery

  • butter

  • stock (chicken or veggie)

  • 6 eggs (you may not need all of them)


  • Chop up the celery and onion into tiny pieces.
  • Heat butter in big pain and add the celery and onions. Cook until soft.
  • Pour breadcrumbs into big pot. Once soft, pour the cooked celery and onions over the breadcrumbs, add liquid stock and eggs.
  • Squish everything together until it’s soft enough to stuff into the turkey
  • Cook bird with stuffing inside as normal.


  • Turn excess stuffing into stuffing balls. Cook stuffing balls in a pan for approximately 30 minutes or freeze them and enjoy later on for Thanksgiving any time of year!

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10 Comments on "Grief Recipe Stories: Mom's Thanksgiving Stuffing"

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  1. Charlene  November 16, 2019 at 8:04 am Reply

    Thank you so much Raquel. It was a great article. It brought back so many great memories. Including ones of my childhood . Grandmom would start her turkey when she got home from work. So we would wake up to that wonderful smell

  2. Dana  November 15, 2019 at 6:44 pm Reply

    Thanks for your recipe! The photo says it all, too. I imagine a lot of us are out here making stuffing that includes “tears” as an unintentional, but necessary, ingredient in a full life.

  3. Bree  November 15, 2019 at 5:38 pm Reply

    Thanks for sharing the memory and recipe! I needed a stuffing recipe!

  4. Mary McAllen  November 15, 2019 at 5:17 pm Reply

    Perfect! Everyone’s favorite , nothing fancy! So true of Jackie. I was smiling the whole time I was reading this wonderfully touching memory. I often hear Jackie’s laugh and feel her presence. I truly do! Thank you for sharing this Quel.

  5. Peg Borchardt  November 15, 2019 at 3:24 pm Reply

    My mom died five years ago this coming Christmas Day. That Thanksgiving before she died we rented a large lakeside house near where she and her husband were living so anyone who could come would have a place to sleep. That was the last time I made her dressing and everything else she liked on Thanksgiving. This will be the first Thanksgiving I’m making her dressing. I finally am able to look at her recipes without dissolving into a wet puddle. Her handwriting. Us two working side by side. The hugs. Whew!

  6. Buz Baetz  November 15, 2019 at 3:04 pm Reply

    Moms are always the special ingredient. No need for a recipe, mom’s love was all that was needed

  7. Terrie Gamino  November 15, 2019 at 1:51 pm Reply

    She prepped the stuffing the night before, cooking it and that only whetted our appetite for the next day!
    My mom used day-old bread and soaked it in water and squeezed out.
    She chopped celery & onion, sauteed it in butter and used lots of pepper and sage. It was SO hard not to snitch a piece!

    The recipe was never written down and I’ve never been able to make it the same way. She always made enough stuffing to stuff the turkey and have a casserole dish filled with stuffing too. We NEVER had to worry about getting food poisoning either.

  8. Suzanne Utts  November 15, 2019 at 1:36 pm Reply

    This story brought back memories of my own mom and her way of making stuffing. She marveled when I got a Cuisanart and all the chopping was done in less than 5 minutes! The kitchen always smelled so good. I hope my own children will have some happy memories of Thanksgiving as they were growing up. Now I go to my younger daughter’s home. Her husband, now an American citizen, is from Europe, and he LOVES Thanksgiving as much as the rest of us. It is our family’s favorite holiday.

  9. Matt  November 15, 2019 at 12:21 pm Reply

    Thank you for sharing!

  10. Brad  November 15, 2019 at 12:15 pm Reply

    Wonderful article!…& I love the stuffing ball idea!!

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