Every year now it seems that newspapers, food blogs, and radio shows debate the merits of turkey or sides as the highlight of Thanksgiving dinner. Personally, I’m all about the dressing–cornbread stuffing baked in a separate pan for those of you who don’t have Southern roots. I’ll never forget the year that my sister, accompanied by my mother, ended up in the emergency room the night before Thanksgiving. The task of making the cornbread for the dressing fell to my father. He made the mistake of picking a sweet cornbread recipe and using that cornbread for the dressing. It’s the only year that I didn’t pig out on the dressing. Needless to say, it was genuinely disgusting. (Sorry, Dad!) That dressing is part of family legend. So is our regular recipe, anchoring us to our ancestors like Americans’ gastronomy nationwide reflect their origins.
As I’ve moved around the country, I’ve discovered that asking the simple question “Dressing or stuffing?” can place a person’s ancestors faster than any other question. If you want to get more specific within the South, you have to ask more detailed questions about the recipe. For example, the Georgia dressing recipe that I grew up with included the traditional cornbread as well as a sage stuffing mix, celery, onions, broth, and eggs. The result was a mixture as solid as canned cranberry jelly. We could cut it into neat slices. (I use an all-scratch method now that stays fluffier, and I like it much better, but don’t tell Mom.) Mr. Homesteader grew up in south Arkansas, and his dressing recipe included chopped boiled eggs. Those chopped boiled eggs seem pretty consistent across the flatlands of the state and can mark a delta Arkansan faster than any accent. Newer recipes that are tasty include squash dressing.
I confess to an endless fascination with dressing and stuffing recipes. I’ve always wanted to compile a catalog of regional variations. Will you help me to start that catalog? You can build the recipe catalog one of two ways. For both cases, you’ll need to answer the following questions. You can answer directly on the blog, but if you prefer not to tie your ancestry to your regular name here, you can send answers to my email (Ozarkhomesteader AT yahoo DOT com), and I’ll remove names before I post them under anonymous listings. (And, yes, I’ll preserve your privacy and not share your information with anyone else.) You may also email photographs in jpg format to that address, and I’ll upload them with this post. Folks from outside the US are welcome to join in too!
1. What’s the recipe? This can be a precise recipe or a vague one, but it needs to include the key components (like boiled eggs, chiles, giblets, fruit, nuts).
2. What consistency does the product have? Can you slice it? Do you spoon it? Is it fluffy? Can you see discrete pieces of bread?
3. What do you call it?
4. What place do you call home, as in where you learned the recipe?
5. What is your primary regional and/or state influence in cooking? For most people, we’re talking about where your mother and grandmother(s) originated.
6. Do you have any relatives who aren’t from that region? If so, from where are they?
7. How long have you used this recipe?
I hope you like mapping food history as much as I do! Join the fun, and spread the word so that we can get a good sample here. Remember to include your food origins location!
Update, November 23, 2011: Please continue to submit your recipes and memories of dressing and stuffing at your house for Thanksgiving. We’ve still got lots of the country to cover!
Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.