Purdue Legends: Home Econ alum Ruth Siems

Creator of Stove Top Stuffing responsible for millions of boxes sold every year

Ruth Siems

1931 – 2005

The next time you pull out a box of Stove Top Stuffing [https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5025316] to create a quick side dish, pause to remember Ruth Siems, the 1953 Purdue home economics graduate who helped bring such convenience to your table.

While working in research and development at General Foods’ technical center in New York in 1971, Siems was part of a team tasked with creating an instant stuffing product. Traditionally, stuffing was made of dried bread crumbs, seasoning and chopped vegetables, and cooked inside a turkey. The tasty dish didn’t often make an appearance except during holiday dinners.

The idea for instant stuffing followed the growing trend of convenience foods which began in the 1950s. Siems discovered that the size of the bread crumbs is critical in reproducing the texture and flavor of traditional stuffing, but in a pan on the stove in just a few minutes. The dried, seasoned crumbs — about the size of a pencil eraser — fluff up when rehydrated with boiling water and melted butter.

Stove Top hit the store shelves in 1972 and was patented in 1975. Siems’ name is first on the list of the four team members in the patent documents. Kraft Foods now owns the brand and sells millions of boxes annually. Not only has the invention made stuffing a more popular everyday dish, but Stove Top has become the foundation for many main dishes such as meatloaf, tuna cakes and chicken casseroles.

Siems, an Evansville native, began her career at a General Foods plant there, but soon transferred to New York. She worked for General Foods for more than 30 years, retiring in 1985. Following retirement, she settled in Newburgh, Indiana, where she enjoyed collecting antiques and restoring spinning wheels and looms. Siems passed away in 2005 at the age of 74.