Unraveling the great Thanksgiving debate: Southern-style dressing vs. stuffing

Published 8:12 am Wednesday, November 22, 2023

In the South, there is never any question as to the perfect side dish served with turkey at Thanksgiving – it’s dressing. And thanks to my aunt passing down her mother’s – my grandmother – dressing recipe, I can now prepare it for the Cowart clan.

That is of course with loads of help from mom. You see, my grandmother’s recipe calls for cornbread that has been fried in a skillet and mom has that skill down pat.

I think it was probably required before my dad put a ring on her finger!

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Cornbread dressing is one of my all-time favorite dishes, but it’s not baby girl’s.

She prefers the pasta dish my sister-in-law prepares for our family gathering.

However, this year, since my youngest will not be able to travel to the South for Thanksgiving, she will be on her own when it comes to preparing the Thanksgiving meal.

And since she doesn’t like dressing, I suggested she try to find some that is already prepared at one of the local grocery stores “up there.”

After the words came out of my mouth, I realized, they may not have dressing “up there.” All the supermarkets in Illinois may just have stuffing.

When I mentioned this to her, she asked, so what’s the difference?

“Well stuffing isn’t cornbread dressing,” I replied with a superior tone in my voice.

But when she quizzed me again about the differences, all I knew to say was that dressing isn’t stuffing.

After I hung up the phone, my curiosity got the best of me – or should I say my daughter’s question stumped me, so I decided to do a little research on stuffing and find out how it differs from dressing.

According to a website geared towards cooking, there are differences in stuffing and dressing, but there are also similarities.

One of the biggest differences, obviously, is that stuffing as the word suggests, is placed inside the cavity of a whole animal while dressing is not.

The practice of stuffing, the website stated, dates to the 5th century where cookbooks were found with recipes for stuffed chicken and rabbit with the stuffing consisting of chopped vegetables, meats, and grains, but no bread. Dressing on the other hand emerged as an alternative for “stuffing” at the behest of Victorians who found the word “stuffing” to be vulgar.

Those Victorians!

Noted as the “great unifier” of the two – stuffing and dressing – is the Kraft Foods product, Stove Top Stuffing.

Since Stove Top Stuffing is sold everywhere, stated the website, it has become the basis of many a family recipe since it can be cooked up in the bird, in a casserole dish, in the microwave, or even in a pot on the stovetop.

Ironically, my aunt did alter her mother’s recipe a bit as she substitutes the Stove Top Stuffing mix savory flavor in lieu of making the originally called for homemade biscuits.

Perhaps, for us in the South, we could say the difference between dressing and stuffing would be its texture.

Stuffing is cubed where cornbread is crumbly and down here, we like our cornbread. In fact, according to the website, “Google Trends shows that the top five states searching for ‘corn bread dressing’ were Louisiana, Oklahoma, Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia, making it safe to say that in the South, it’s called dressing and made with corn bread.”

So perhaps what I need to clarify with my daughter is that in the South what really differentiates dressing from stuffing is the cornbread.

Guess I better make a visit to my mom’s house and find out how she fries it up.







About Terri Cowart Frazier

Terri Frazier was born in Cleveland. Shortly afterward, the family moved to Vicksburg. She is a part-time reporter at The Vicksburg Post and is the editor of the Vicksburg Living Magazine, which has been awarded First Place by the Mississippi Press Association. She has also been the recipient of a First Place award in the MPA’s Better Newspaper Contest’s editorial division for the “Best Feature Story.”

Terri graduated from Warren Central High School and Mississippi State University where she received a bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis in public relations.

Prior to coming to work at The Post a little more than 10 years ago, she did some freelancing at the Jackson Free Press. But for most of her life, she enjoyed being a full-time stay at home mom.

Terri is a member of the Crawford Street United Methodist Church. She is a lifetime member of the Vicksburg Junior Auxiliary and is a past member of the Sampler Antique Club and Town and Country Garden Club. She is married to Dr. Walter Frazier.

“From staying informed with local governmental issues to hearing the stories of its people, a hometown newspaper is vital to a community. I have felt privileged to be part of a dedicated team at The Post throughout my tenure and hope that with theirs and with local support, I will be able to continue to grow and hone in on my skills as I help share the stories in Vicksburg. When asked what I like most about my job, my answer is always ‘the people.’

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