Stuffing or Dressing? What is it and why do we make it?

First of all, what IS stuffing?

Stuffing, sometimes called dressing, is a mixture of cubed bread, vegetables, herbs, and sometimes egg, cooked in the cavity of poultry.

The History—Who ate stuffing first?

Historical references to stuffing date as far back as the Roman Empire, though it really is a ubiquitous dish, variations of which can be found in almost every country and culture throughout the world.

Tradition—Americans Stuffing Themselves with Stuffing

The pilgrims probably didn't eat stuffing at the "first Thanksgiving" (a hotly debated event itself) and the first Thanksgiving meal most likely didn't include any of the main and side dishess we've come to associate with the holiday. However, the practice of stuffing and roasting turkeys likely does trace back at least to the first Europeans to set foot in America.

When they laid eyes on the turkey upon arrival, they were excited by both its size and resemblance to the peacock, a delicacy enjoyed by European royalty. A turkey's size meant it could feed a large number of people economically and, since the bird roughly resembled a peacock, it was cooked in a similar way.

Since the modern stovetop and oven had not been invented, the turkeys were roasted on spits and the "sides" were stuffed in the bird to expedite cooking and so that the juices of the bird soaked into the bread, making it even more delicious. Cooking the stuffing this way also ensured more bang per caloric buck—and surviving in the "New World" meant taking advantage of every calorie you could get.

As you can see in the header photo, we opted not to cook our stuffing in the bird because it drastically increases the density (and therefore cook time) of the meat—and we had a lot of turkeys that needed to fly out the door!

So it is stuffing or dressing?

Many say it depends on where you live, claiming those south of the Mason Dixon line eat dressing and those north enjoy stuffing, however many midwesterners prefer the term "dressing".

And speaking of regional differences, stuffing ingredients vary widely throughout the United States. If you travel to New England for the holidays, you might encounter a stuffing made with oysters. California? Persimmons. And don't forget to stop by Louisiana for a stuffing made with andouille sausage and shellfish.

Want to hear more about the Stuffing vs. Dressing Controversy? Listen to this story on The Salt.

How does your family make stuffing? Tell us in the comments for a chance to win a bag of freshly roasted Metropolis coffee. 

Winner will be drawn on Monday, December 21st.