I Made Marilyn Monroe’s Sexy Stuffing
The fascination with Marilyn Monroe's stuffing recipe proves everything the starlet touched still turns to sex appeal
Despite the ease with which it lends itself to double entendre, stuffing is the least sexy Thanksgiving side.
I’m aware this may be a controversial take, considering a map of favorite Thanksgiving side dishes that tends to make the rounds online around this time of year suggests a decent portion of the Northeast is pretty horny for stuffing. To those stuffing enthusiasts, I ask you to keep in mind that by declaring stuffing unsexy, I do not necessarily mean to suggest that stuffing is bad. Despite a pervasive societal tendency to blindly reward any form of sex appeal, sexiness is not inherently good, nor is unsexiness inherently bad. Lots of good things aren’t sexy, like dishwashers, fuzzy socks, the Coke commercials with the polar bears and that feeling when you think you lost your wallet but then it turns out you didn’t. As a food, stuffing may very well be as good as most of New England seems to think it is, but when it comes to sex appeal, a lumpy, brownish substance recently pulled from the insides of a dead bird just isn’t making the cut.
Unless, of course, Marilyn Monroe is the one pulling that lumpy brown substance out of the bird. Nearly 60 years after her death, the star’s immortal Midas touch for sexiness remains as potent as ever, and the hefty prices for which even the deceased starlet’s most mundane possessions routinely go at auction prove anything Monroe touched, even a stuffing recipe scrawled on stationary from an insurance company, still turns to sex appeal.
The recipe was adapted for the New York Times by Matt and Ted Lee in 2010 after resurfacing in a book of Monroe’s various scribblings, and reentered the spotlight last year when an update to the Times’ system of crediting recipes landed Marilyn Monroe her very first byline in the paper of record.
This was the first I’d heard of it, though the recipe has been circling the internet for at least a decade, and it was by far the most interested I’d ever been in stuffing. (I was raised on gluten-free stuffing — a dry, tasteless affair — so I never really got the hype.) But what made this stuffing interesting to me (and, I would hazard, to much of the rest of the internet) wasn’t the unusual ingredients (raisins, three different kinds of nuts) nor the specificity and obscurity of the instructions (bread is to be soaked and shredded, garlic is strictly prohibited). Rather, the appeal is of course in the connection to Marilyn herself, whose inalienable celebrity status still haunts her every move decades after her death. If anyone can make stuffing sexy, it’s Marilyn Monroe.
This inherent, almost subconscious sexiness that still shadows anything even remotely linked to Monroe is something to which few of us are immune. While Monroe’s blonde bombshell aesthetic was never one to which I particularly aspired, any mention of the star still has me doing an instinctive double take. When you or I click on a Marilyn Monroe stuffing recipe, we’re responding to the larger-than-life sexiness from which the star, even in death, has never found refuge — an immortal sex appeal that ultimately left her sharing a grave with the man who leaked her nudes back in 1953, building his publishing empire on her body.
But while there’s a certain tastelessness to the fact that we can’t even let Marilyn Monroe make stuffing without ogling, in some ways the recipe represents a departure from the blonde bombshell image of the star on which Hugh Hefner based the Playboy aesthetic. Part of the appeal of the stuffing recipe is that it provides a glimpse, or at least the illusion of one, into Monroe’s private home life. Before celebrities brought us into their homes on their Instagram stories, before tabloids routinely published photos of bare-faced stars running errands in sweats, we had very little access to the everyday lives of celebrities out of the spotlight. The idea of old Hollywood’s most iconic sex symbol immersed in mundane acts of domesticity proves strangely tantalizing, a mysterious alternative to the glamorous starlet on the silver screen. In their adaptation of the recipe, Matt and Ted Lee take a voyeuristic glimpse into Monroe’s daily life, envisioning the star “prowling the aisles at D’Agostino’s on First Avenue in a crepe dress and heels,” following along as she purchases the ingredients for the stuffing recipe believed to have originated around 1955, when Monroe lived in an apartment at 2 Sutton Place.
While my own attempt at recreating Monroe’s stuffing involved neither dress nor heels, I roughly followed the New York Times adaptation of the recipe, taking a few liberties. I left out the turkey livers and/or hearts, because I’m not particularly interested in either consuming or handling organs. I also didn’t have enough raisins, which is fine, because while I tend to think raisins are often unfairly maligned, I don’t think showing up unannounced in stuffing is doing them any favors. (The same can be said of mac and cheese, of course.)
It turned out fine, and my sister recommends eating it for breakfast with a fried egg. Is the stuffing itself as sexy as the idea of Marilyn Monroe immersed in the domestic arts, scribbling down a recipe on a spare piece of paper while gazing wistfully out of a window or something? No, of course not. But nothing is as sexy as the cultural obsession surrounding Marilyn Monroe makes it out to be, probably not even Marilyn Monroe herself.
In lieu of reprinting the recipe here, which I don’t know if I can do since the New York Times seems to have dug its claws pretty deep into this slice of Monroe folklore, please accept this definitive ranking of Thanksgiving sides from least to most sexy, compiled by me, the foremost self-appointed expert on Thanksgiving horniness. (You can find the recipe here, though.)
9. Creamed corn
8. Sweet potato casserole with marshmallow topping (trashy)
6. Non-creamed corn
5. Sweet potato casserole with a less trashy topping
4. Green bean casserole
2. Mashed potatoes
1. Cranberry sauce
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