Sunday, November 7, 2010

Stuff It.

Dear Tricia, Being a non-native in Colorado and coming from Texas, I have had many conversations with my friends and coworkers about whether it is called "stuffing" or "dressing." Is there a difference? Or is it just different lingo for different areas?

This is a great question to start off my month of Thanksgiving-themed blogs! Stuffing or dressing: which one is it? My immediate thought was that stuffing is cooked inside the bird and dressing is cooked outside, but this one had me scratching my head so I went to several different sources to try and find an answer. The Food Lover's Companion, which most of us in the restaurant world will deem as the most reliable source of culinary information, was no help at all.

Stuffing: see dressing.

Not awesome. For the first time ever, the FLC let me down. Jerk. So I decided to go back a little further and check out my husband's unabridged, second edition Webster's Dictionary. (Its a mammoth book- 16.4 pounds to be exact. Yeah, I put that sucker on my bathroom scale.) This edition was published in 1934, so I went back a good 80 years to see what they thought then:

Dressing: a. the spice mixture added to the bread, etc., used in stuffing a roast. b. a seasoned mixture as of bread, nuts, or oysters, often used to stuff poultry or roasts.

Stuffing: any seasoning preparation used to stuff meat; a composition of bread, spices, condiments, etc.; forcemeat; dressing

Yeah, that didn't tell me much either, except that dressing is used as stuffing. Then, when you start to get into the difference between stuffing being used as a noun (like a bowl of stuffing) or a verb (you're stuffing the turkey), things get really unclear.

The only difference I can find, when there is a difference explained at all, is that dressing is cooked by itself, while stuffing is cooked inside the turkey. However, there are still so many stuffing recipes that are cooked outside of the turkey. They're used interchangeably and have the same ingredients. Case in point,'s food dictionary has this little gem to offer:

stuffing: see dressing

Ugh... not again. Way to give me a whole lot of nothing, What that does tell me though, is that dressing and stuffing may indeed just be regional differences. So I started looking up the history of stuffing in the south, and let me tell you, they do NOT like using the word stuffing. Chef Eve Felder, one of the deans at the Culinary Institute of America, claims that stuffing isn't a pleasant word, so in the South, they called it dressing. Those southerners- so polite and gentle.

Then I went to my Facebook fan page for the blog (Have you joined it yet? You're missing out.) and started asking where everyone is from and what they call it. Everyone responded pretty quickly- from Maryland, Pennsylvania, Texas, California, Florida, Tennessee, New York... seems that majority of them call it stuffing, and the ones who call it dressing are from the south. Not everyone from the south called it dressing, but the only ones who even mentioned the D-word were southern.

So the answer? I'm going with both. Dressing and stuffing are the same thing, with the same ingredients, sometimes cooked outside of the turkey, sometimes cooked inside. (Or sometimes layered in between glorious layers of duck, turkey, and chicken like the culinary wonderment that is the Turducken.)

Similar quandaries include the sprinkle/jimmie debate, the sub/hero/hoagie dilemma, and of course, my favorite: soda/pop. (Even though we all know it's soda. Le duh.)


Erin McGuire said...

My mom is from Boston, and always called chocolate sprinkles "Jimmies" but she also called water fountains "bubblers" which is just crazy.

Anonymous said...

Oh Tricia! Thank you soooo much! I no longer feel stupid calling it stuffing no matter where it was cooked (bird-wise, not state-wise).


p.s. It's all Coke.

Anonymous said...

So my mom was watching the latest episode of All My Children today and one of the characters asked this exact same question! I should probably call her and tell her to check this out.