Who was the first person to think to themselves, “You know what would be incredible? What if we took bread and other seasonings, shoved them inside this dead animal we are about to cook, and then served it as a side dish?”
No one knows for sure. However, many people seem to forget that the name itself implies that it is to be prepared inside the emptied carcass of whatever animal happens to be on the menu, not created in some baking dish filled with a “just add water” mix.
Perhaps to rationalize this method, we down here in the South decided to call it “dressing” instead of “stuffing” as those crazy Northern neighbors of ours did.
So how far back can we find stuffing used in cooking?
Some time between the 2nd century BC and the 1st century AD, a chef by the name of Apicius created a cookbook entitled, “Apicius de re Coquinaria.” In its pages are recipes for stuffed chicken, rabbit, pig, and even dormouse. His main ingredient choices appear to have been:
- Chopped liver
But of course the question we all want the answer to is, “Did the pilgrims have stuffing at the first Thanksgiving?” Well, we really don’t know. However, they did have access to an abundance of both wild game and rice. It is probably safe to assume that dinner included some kind of bird with a wild rice dish alongside it.
There are many Boston area cookbooks filled with recipes for various stuffings, including oyster-based stuffings and stuffings made with mashed potatoes and breadcrumbs.
Of course here in the South it would almost be considered sacrilege if your Thanksgiving Day stuffing…we mean dressing, was not cornbread based.
Ironically, the term “dressing” replaced stuffing because many folks found it offensive. (Can you see all of the social media posts and hashtags that would have been made?)
As far as stuffing/dressing becoming a regular staple of the Thanksgiving Day meal, there are written records as far back as 1836. When the stuffing began leaving the actual insides of the animal being cooked is another question. Today, though, many people serve their stuffing/dressing as a side dish prepared directly in a casserole dish.
Some would say this process really took off in the 1970’s with the introduction and mass production of Stovetop Stuffing. Suddenly, the only thing your stuffing actually got stuffed into was the box you purchased it in off the shelves.
So what will be served at your Thanksgiving Day table this year? We’d love to hear some of your favorite recipes for stuffing/dressing.
Share them below if you feel safe revealing your family secrets. Have a safe and Happy Thanksgiving and try not to get too stuffed yourself.