Please pass the… Well, is it dressing or stuffing? Although the ingredients are similar for both, the answer mostly depends on one of these two factors: where you are from or how the side dish is prepared.
Let me begin with the more straightforward answer to this holiday debate. If the dish is put inside the turkey it is stuffing. If it was prepared in a casserole dish then it is dressing. This is the easiest answer – but not necessarily one that will have everyone in agreement.
The second factor, where you are from, seems to be where the war begins in answering this question. Below the Mason-Dixon line we are inclined to call the side dish dressing no matter what ingredients are involved or how it was prepared. Most other parts of the country stick with stuffing again whether it was ever inside a bird is irrelevant.
I have first hand knowledge of the regional debate and it does seem to rear its head this festive time of year. My mother is a born and bread Alabamian. She is dressing all the way. My father is from Montana and although being married to my mother for thirty-four years has allowed him to embrace many of the great southern food traditions – he has yet (and I doubt he ever will) love dressing. So this is my first hand account – South is dressing / North is stuffing.
Of course the line isn’t drawn quite that clearly as there are many areas between Montana and Alabama. But does it have anything to do with ingredients? Most stuffings and dressings begin with a rice or bread base (whether that bread is Southern cornbread or Northern sourdough). Many coastal areas add oysters, but this doesn’t make it dressing or stuffing either because there are oyster recipes for both. Dressing and stuffing are similar to a soup in this manner – people used what they had to make dressing or stuffing.
So is it stuffing or dressing? I have come to the conclusion that there is no right or wrong answer to this one but if you go to my mother’s house stuffing is not the correct answer!