Rep Your Set: Stuffing or Dressing? » VSB

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Rep Your Set: Stuffing or Dressing?



This past weekend, my delegation of Black friends here in Panama and I, all homesick and missing starchy Southern goodness, decided to tear da kitchen up and assemble like Black ass high-calorie Voltron for an elaborate, Itis-friendly Sunday dinner.

Our crew—made up of HalfroPanamanians (me and two others), DMV-raised Africans, a Trinidadian-Panamanian from Brooklyn, and whoever is in town that week—cooks together most Sundays. We take turns taking charge, whether trying new dishes or putting spins on what we each cook best. This time we needed the artery-clogging soul food many of us grew up on, for a change. Plus, it was to be the first of a few unofficial farewell gatherings for my roommate/sisterwife who was selected to teach for Fullbright in Rwanda and has to leave me/us.

There was to be no talk of diets or fat content. The goal: an excessive meal that sweet ol’ Grummaw Peaches, the one with the sugar, could not partake in.

So, there was my baked chicken (with a mustard and brown sugar glaze) and macaroni and cheese with cheddar, pepper jack, and Gouda. The Jamaicans made escovitch red snapper, rice and peas, and a bombastic ass okra situation. The Texas-bred HalfroPanamanian made banana pudding, cabbage (con turkey necks), and cornbread dressing. Or was it stuffing?

There was no consensus. Either way, it was the best I have ever eaten.

It’s a debate as old as time. It’s a topic as divisive as Vanessa Huxtable’s uselessness or blue contacts in post-pubescent Negroidian eyes. Like pop versus soda. OG Chocolatey Aunt Viv versus Creole Lady Flustered McHumorless Aunt Viv, and so on.

Whether you enjoy it from a box with vacuum-sealed ingredients, or via baked cornbread, broth, sage and other fresh goodness, this is apparently quite the polarizing dish. But what is it called?

I grew up hearing both names. Though my mother is a brilliant cook, her stuffing/dressing was never particularly legendary. Sorry, Mom. We called it both. Now, my grandmother’s patties (empanadas)? People drive four hours from Maryland to Hampton, Virginia for dozens of those. Even though other AfroPanamanians call them patties and other Latinos call them empanadas, the crescent-shaped, beef- or turkey-filled pastries she prepares are always Miss Ruby’s patties, regardless of who is buying.

I initially wondered if the difference of name was due to region, preparation, or intention, but that theory has been shot to hell.

I mentioned the stuffing versus dressing question on Facebook and it sprang into a hilarious, passionate 300-comment debate. Is it stuffing when inside the turkey and dressing outside? Everybody knew, yet nobody knew. The post brought bourgeoisie West coast Blacks; Black friends from the South raised on fatback fat stored in Folgers cans; trusted and vetted White friends; and everyone in between to the yard.

“Asking to pass the dressing [at the dinner table] will get you Thousand Island,” one friend wrote.

Friends cited their meemaws as verifiable, discussion-ending sources. “My grandma calls it dressing. So that’s what it is,” cried another. Assumptions were made about one another’s upbringing. Recipes were swapped. The whole thing spiraled out of control. It was beautiful and Black as hell.

Then someone mentioned apples, and I knew they had eaten Thanksgiving supper with White friends from college at one point or another.

Another friend linked me to an article she wrote for CNN that mentioned…


White Castle sliders as the base for stuffing/dressing. Oh the horror. #NameThatRace

Things took another turn when a DC-bred friend mentioned adding scrapple. Now, scrapple is one of those things—like Vienna sausages and banner sausage—that I’ve always seen loved ones eat, but could never peel my dignity back far enough to try for myself. I have a friend from this imaginary place called Delaware who loves scrapple. My childhood best friend’s dad made it often. I love them both despite.

I hear the word scrapple and think, “goat taints.” Naturally, goat taints don’t belong in stuffing/dressing. So, that’s the end of that.

Do not Google the ingredients of scrapple or banner sausage.

It was fascinating to see such passionate exchanges. Everyone had a story. Alliances were formed. All had a great night. Perhaps this is one of those things we collectively won’t agree on, like the damage done to Collective Black Dignity by modern reality television, the fate of Judy Winslow, ass-eating, and R. Kelly fandom in The Age of Obama.

What do you call this dish? What are the essential ingredients?

Alex Hardy

Alexander Hardy is the dance captain for Saint Damita Jo Jackson's Royal Army. He is a writer who escaped Hampton, Virginia and is now based in Panama City, Panama. There, he runs The Colored Boy, and consumes copious amounts of chicken. He has written for, CNN, Gawker, and Huffington Post among other outlets. Alexander can likely be found daydreaming about his next meal or Blacking It Up on someone's dance floor. He also doesn't believe in snow or Delaware. Read more from Alex at

  • BeautifullyHuman

    I call it stuffing, but my G-ma calls it dressing. I believe she adds gizzards to hers, but I pluck that sh*t out because I don’t eat no gizzards and I don’t really known what they are.

    “and assemble like Black ass high-calorie Voltron for an elaborate, Itis-friendly Sunday dinner.”

    You’re hilarious! Between the stuff you write and your bio, you have me rolling. LOL

  • ThinkyLily

    Dressing. In my family DRESSING is made separately we do not stuff turkey with it therefore calling it “dressing” makes more sense.
    Sidenote: “Stuffing” always sounded vulgar to me.

    • IcePrincess

      I’m diggin your screen name. STL stand up!

  • Cultures be confusing errbody. It took me like four days in Panama to figure out what patacones were. ¿Con que? Empanadas? Patties? Pastellitos? Man…

    I’m in the “dressing outside the bird, stuffing inside it” camp…but I’ll also admit to never asking for “dressing” at the table. Funny how it works that way. Then again…my family doesn’t make stuffing OR dressing. So there’s that.

    • Yeah, when I got to Panama, I had never heard “patacones.” Other places, like Puerto Rico, they are “tostones.” Either way, they are a vital part of life.

      • miss t-lee


      • I came home and told my mom they called tostones patacones over there and she was like, “that’s cute”. El Shade.

        Also, depending where you’re from, “horita” means “now”…or it means “later”. THAT was a fun day.

        • RIGHT. That confused me when I got here. People say, “Te llamo ahorita.” And I was like, “but that means NOW.” Basically, it could mean 5 mins, or a damn week.

          And, CP time is universal.

  • Stuffing gang

  • TJ

    Stuffing! I’m not well-versed in Dressing. Then again, what do Haitians know about dressing? Then again, what do Haitians know about stuffing pre-Assimilation? Lol.

  • TD

    Stuffing is Stove Top, dressing is from scratch. That’s just me.

  • 909girl601world

    It’s dressing. Stuffing is that stuff in a red box. Dressing consists of at least: homemade cornbread (no sugar!), plenty of broth, onions, bell peppers, celery, poultry seasoning, pepper, salt, sage. Shredded meat can be added. Giblets, which I find disgusting, cannot.

    • BeautifullyHuman

      Okay this sounds like my grandma’s dressing. My comment is incarcerated but I called giblets gizzards. Lol. I don’t eat them either as you can see I don’t even know what they’re called.

      • IcePrincess

        I don’t care what yall call it, dressing/stuffing whatev, I don’t like it, never have. People get all in their feelings when I won’t try it at holidays. I have to explain that it ain’t personal, I just don’t care for the dish. However, my son’s granny makes a killer homemade dirty rice with gizzards. Yuuuuuum

    • miss t-lee

      Giblets go in the gravy though, and yum.

      • Ms TLC

        Yup. And you don’t notice it…


    My family doesn’t go too hard. I’ve seen my own grandparents flip between the two in a sentence. *kanyeshrug* Not my fight.

  • Shay-d-Lady

    im from the south. its dressing. we don’t know nothing bout stuffing. you cant make it from a box. it can only be made from fresh delicious a$s buttery cornbread. I don’t trust people that say or eat “stuffing”. What in the f!ck is that crumbly bread crumb based concoction of negligence and broken dreams? I really don’t think a person who loves you would give you stuffing.. and no I don’t care nothing about fancy apple and cranberry versions etc. no bueno. I want my dressing in a separate pan with crunchy edges, that green tinge of sage, uneven pieces of celery and peppers, onions and eggs cause you aint got no food processor. there might be a loose chicken bone in there from the chicken thighs/legs used to flavor it cause youmade that broth from boiling actual chicken and seasoning it and not from a can. team dressing all dayum day.

    • Britt

      When I hear “stuffing”, I think of the boxed mess or something that goes inside the turkey. Having someone in my family that can make dressing the way my great grandmother did (using her recipe) is what I’m most thankful for during Thanksgiving lol. And I need to be first so I can get the end piece with all that delicious crunchiness.

    • miss t-lee

      ” I want my dressing in a separate pan with crunchy edges, that green
      tinge of sage, uneven pieces of celery and peppers, onions and eggs
      cause you aint got no food processor.”


      • Precious

        I’m from Philly and my mom makes it this way… We call it stuffing though. Lol.

    • So basically, your house is the place to be on Thanksgiving.

    • Jacqueline Brougher

      DRESSING!!!!! #Memphis

  • miss t-lee

    It’s dressing. It’s the only way I’ve ever known it, and I’m not changing now.
    The only time I ever heard it called “stuffing” was on TV, and then twitter. Even white folks here call it dressing, because that’s what it is…lol
    When I hear stuffing, I think of stove top…and hellz nah. That’s not dressing.

    We make it with cornbread, and some other family trade secrets. And it’s fabulous. No fruit in my dressing bro, I’m serious. I’ll punch you in the throat. Unless it’s cranberry sauce on top of my turkey, but I digress.
    Although, I was in Louisiana one year with my homegirl’s family, and I had a rice dressing that made me wanna slap somebody…it was that good.

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