food, glorious food

The Story of Stuffing

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When you picture Thanksgiving stuffing you probably picture something like this: a steaming casserole dish of fall goodness, fresh out of the oven, golden brown and ready to delight your dinner guests. However, the story of stuffing starts long before you ever preheat the oven or pick up a knife. It begins in a celery field in Salinas, California.

The area where John Steinbeck penned many a great American novel is also one of the biggest celery producing areas in the great state of California. Americans eat a lot of celery, millions of bunches during Thanksgiving alone. This requires a significant amount of land to grow but also labor to harvest. This is because celery is packed right in the field. In the course of a few hours an entire field of celery will go from the dirt, to the inside of a box, to the back of a truck so it can be quickly brought to market.

Vegetable wholesalers have very particular specifications for what they will and won’t buy. The main thing they are looking for is size. Grocery stores expect celery to grow in large and uniform bunches that will predictably fill a case with the same number of bunches every time and stack neatly in supermarket displays. What this hunger for standardization means is that after the harvest, many bunches of celery are simply left in the field because they are slightly too small to be packed and shipped to the grocery store. The result is a lot of perfectly edible celery that gets left in the field and tilled back into the earth.

This extent of this waste is truly tragic. Sadder still, undersized celery is just one type of celery that goes to waste. Even more celery ends up getting wasted in the hunt for perfect celery hearts for salad bars and uniform celery sticks for deli trays. After the harvest the fields are littered will all of the stalks that did not make the cut. In total, as much as 30% of the celery that we grow ends up going to waste because it does not neatly fit into our agriculture system. The road to stuffing is paved with wasted celery.

Thankfully, the story of stuffing has a hopeful ending. At Imperfect we are proud to stick up for the underdog celery. All of the scraggly, small, and outcast bunches have found a new home at in our Thanksgiving boxes, where they will be delivered to thousands of households all over the Bay Area and enjoyed in salads, sauces, and of course stuffing! We hope you enjoy your stuffing a little bit more now that you know how it got to your plate. We are thankful for the chance to share it with you!

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