While the world embroils itself in constant debates and controversies each holiday season and calls it the War on Christmas the skirmishes over Thanksgiving get a pass. That is mostly because the debates of Thanksgiving rage about food. There is no greater debate at Thanksgiving than the one of stuffing versus dressing.
Which do you have? And how can you tell the difference?
The debate could well date back to Civil War times — yes, a North versus South thing.
Only Yankees “stuff” their bird. They will combine bread with celery and onions and cook it inside the bird. The practice may at one time served a practical purpose. Ancient cooking methods sometimes caused a large bird like a turkey to dry out in roasting and stuffing would temper the internal temperature of a bird for more even cooking. Modern cooking conveniences such as convection ovens and even the constant heat of a traditional electric oven more or less solves that problem.
Historic or not, stuffing isn’t going to go away because not only is it traditional, it’s tasty. There’s more than one way to stuff a bird, you see.
But Southerners will tell you it’s not stuffing — it’s dressing.
Stuffing is considered uncouth — something only a Yankee would do. If you’re from the south you leave the inside of the bird alone and prepare “dressing” that is cooked in the oven along side the turkey and it is crisp on the outside, moist on the inside.
But in Southern “dressing” you’ll also find a variety of additions no Yankee would ever think of — pork, for example. Many use several kinds of pork — crisp bacon for the top and savory sausage for the center. This they mix with walnuts or pecans, cranberries or any manner of local and hardy fruit (think apples, not peaches).
That’s not to say Yankees won’t get creative when stuffing that bird. Oysters, for example, are a Yankee tradition in coastal areas.
Snoop around online and you will find as many recipes for stuffing or dressing as you do arguments over how to cook a turkey.
Yes, the debates of Thanksgiving food does not stop at the art of stuffing.
A turkey can be roasted, braised, grilled, smoked, stewed, dehydrated or deep fried.
Potatoes can be whipped, mashed or baked.
Even the type of potato is debated. Do you want yams…or sweet potatoes? (Yes, kids, there is a difference and if you spent more time in the kitchen at Thanksgiving than at the table, you’d know that).
Cranberries — do you want the real deal or that molded jelly stuff that comes in a can?
Even pies are subject to debate: pumpkin or pecan? And if pumpkin, do you serve pies made from the stuff in cans or from a real honest to goodness pumpkin you cook, mash and process yourself?
Thanksgiving is a big deal and the food has to be just so. Ask anyone who is tasked with the cooking.