Location, Location, Location?

So what IS the difference between stuffing and dressing? Everyone who wrote in was emphatic, but two answers are running neck in neck with no clear winner.

Half concur with this reader who wrote:

my understanding has always been that if the mixture is stuffed into a bird or meat, it’s stuffing. if it’s cooked or baked outside the “vessel” (in a pan or dish), it’s dressing!!

Note the exclamation marks.

The other half believe that the word choice is dependent on one’s geographic location within the U.S., not the location of the foodstuff vis a vis the bird.

Two people referred to an AP Wire story that said, in part:

(AP) – Is there a difference between stuffing and dressing? This recipe for a tasty sourdough, pears and sausage accompaniment bakes in a baking dish rather than being stuffed inside the Thanksgiving turkey – but what you call it depends more on where you live than how the dish is prepared.

That’s the view of the editors of Cooking Light, noted in a holiday feature in the magazine’s November issue. “Stuffing” can be stuffed into the bird or baked alongside it in a separate dish, and the same holds true for the term “dressing,” they write. “In the southern and eastern United States, people generally call it ‘dressing,’ a term that came about during the 19th century. Elsewhere, it’s referred to as ‘stuffing.”‘

One of the people who cited the AP/Cooking Light stories, a writer friend of mine in Kentucky (she’s a reporter and columnist for the Kentucky New Era), wrote:

Think of it simply this way. Stuffing goes in the bird. Dressing is cooked in a dish outside of the bird.

I know you will try to analyze this, Devra. Just remember, I was once a food editor of a small rural daily, where food is serious business. I thought I knew the answer when I read your Thanksgiving entry, but just to be careful, I “googled” the question. I found the same conclusion in an AP story and in a Cooking Light magazine article.

Another thing. Dressing is typically more popular in the South. I had cornbread dressing for my family.

She knows me well; let’s analyze. On the one hand, she concurs with the stuffing inside/dressing outside definition, and on the other she supports the Cooking Light editors who clearly say that “it depends more on where you live than how the dish is prepared.” So, here’s my conclusion: lets all just agree that location is the key, regardless as to whether you’re talking about the location in which the bread-based morsels are prepared in relationship to the bird, or the geographic location of those about to eat it.

My Kentucky reporter goes on to mention:

In Kentucky, turkey and dressing with gravy is actually served yearround at many mom-and-pop restaurants and at grocery stories that offer the classic “meat and three” lunches.

Meat and three? I assumed that the three might represent stuffing, a vegetable dish, and one extra, maybe cranberry sauce or a biscuit. Wrong! These people eat three vegetable side dishes! According to my Kentucky reporter, stuffing is considered part of the meat serving (along with the gravy), and oftentimes the meat serving contains more stuffing than meat. With that, you choose three vegetables. Sounds good to me, but I can’t eat another bite — I’m stuffed.