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Stuffing v. dressing

Posted by R. Berg on November 28, 2003

In Reply to: Stuffing v. dressing posted by pdianek on November 28, 2003

: : : : : : The question was asked, in another forum: what do you call the seasoned bread crumb mixture served with (and sometimes baked in) the Thanksgiving turkey?

: : : : : : Doing a little research I looked for "dressing" in the definitive, every-slang-word-in-the-U.S. "Dictionary of American Regional English," (Volume II) by Frederic G. Cassidy , chief editor, (1991, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass., and London, England). Guess what? It didn't have "dressing" as in stuffing. It had dressing as a sweet sauce, frosting, sugar and cream in one's coffee, gravy, manure used as fertilizer, and, in hoodoo, something applied to an object to give it magical power. I couldn't look up "stuffing" because the St- volume is a work in progress.

: : : : : : However, in another reference it says: "Although American cookbooks gave recipes for 'forcemeat' (a 17th century word, from French 'farcir,' to stuff) most Americans called it 'stuffing' until the 1880s; then 'dressing' somehow seemed more refined and slowly became our most common word for it." From "Listening to America" by Stuart Berg Flexner (Simon and Schuster, New York, 1982).
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: : : : : I well remember in the 70s we had reports (spoof ones I suspect) in the British Media that polite society in the US were covering up the legs of chairs and tables so as not to offend their sensibilities. Here in the UK we prefer naked legs and stuffing.

: : : : I am afraid, at least according to the history books and Mr. Flexner, we did cover up table and chair legs.

: : : I prefer "stuffing", as no one seems to say they "dress" a turkey -- they "stuff" it, even if their genteelness forces them to name what they dredge hours later from the cooked bird "dressing".

: : : Sadly, yes, once upon a time Americans did "dress" piano legs (sorry, piano *limbs* -- "legs" was considered too daring a word, even for musical instruments), but that wasn't 1970s, more like 1870s. We took Victorian sensibilities a bit far, considering the queen herself lived a whole ocean away. Is it any wonder, then, that a *mere* 130 years later, some audience members are walking out of "Love Actually", offended by its prurience?

: : Aren't 'dressing' and 'stuffing' entirely different? The UK use is that 'dressing' a fowl is preparing it for cooking the same way that one dresses lamb or a joint of beef - it means to prepare. 'Stuffing' is the filling of the internal cavity of a fowl with minced meat/breadcrubs and hebs. One can also 'stuff' a joint of meat and pork shoulder is often stuffed with a herby/breadcrumb mixture. In jest, 'stuffing a bird' is to have sex, but as 'bird' rather dropped out of usage by the 1980s, it is mostly said in retro-jest.
: : One can 'tup a totty', 'shag a slag' 'bang a bitch' and many other colourful variations which become explicit 'with a duck', but 'stuffing a bird' is only injesting.

: The US use is multifaceted. Dressing a bird or dish *can* mean preparing it.

: It can also mean placing a "dressing" or "stuffing" inside a cavity. At Thanksgiving time (today), that's the chest cavity of a turkey, and while the main ingredient of such turkey dressing/stuffing is cubed bread, after that all bets are off. See, e.g., for too many variations -- including regional: in the Deep South, cornbread is the bread of choice; in the Southwest, chilies are often added. Then there are stuffings containing oysters or pecans or currants or.... Every family seems to have its own favorite.

: I prefer "stuffing" for inserting the mixture into the cavity. It sounds less pretentious, and saves "dressing" for tying the turkey's legs together.

Dressing a fowl often means eviscerating it. I hadn't heard the word used for tying the legs together.