Bread stuffing is one of the most popular side dishes for American holiday dinners. But did you know that stuffing has been around since the first century?
Although experts are not clear on when or where stuffing was first made, the first recorded history of the dish comes from Apicius de re Coquinaria, a Roman collection of popular recipes from the first century AD. These recipes frequently mixed spelt (a type of early wheat used to make breads), spices, herbs, and vegetables, which was then stuffed into a variety of animals. In particular, the Romans favored stuffed chicken, rabbit, or pigs for their everyday meals.
Stuffing remained a popular dish well past the Roman empire, and has gathered several names over the centuries, including: farce(14th century), forcemeat (17th century), and most recently, the 19th century term: dressing. The recipe has also gone through many different renditions, depending on which culture it appears in, resulting in there being a large debate over what a “true” traditional stuffing consists of.
Eventually, the tradition of bread stuffing during holidays found its way to America. One might think that, surely, given its popularity, stuffing was a main part of the very first Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, there is no clear evidence as to whether or not stuffing was present when the Pilgrims broke bread with the Wampanoag tribe.
In reality, it seems that bread stuffing didn’t become popular in America as a Thanksgiving staple until at least the early 1800s. What is known for sure is that different parts of the nation adapted the dish early on in order to incorporate local flavors. For example, in the Boston area, oyster-based stuffing is incredibly popular. One of the earliest printed recipes is from the 1832 Cook’s Own Book which instructed “Fill your chickens with young oysters cut small, truffles, breadcrumbs, parsley and spices, and roast them.” Comparatively, New England stuffing at the time tended to incorporate chestnuts, and often continues today. In the South, cornbread-based stuffing is the way to go, although they tend to refer to it as dressing.
As Thanksgiving meals became more common over the years, stuffing began to take a much more prominent place at the holiday table. Early Thanksgiving menus from the 19th century list stuffed turkeys and hams as main courses, indicating that by the 1800s, stuffing had come to the forefront of most holiday meals. Today, the holidays in the United States would be considered incomplete without this classic side-dish. Whether it’s the small, spiced bread cubes of New England, or the meaty corn bread dressing of the South, there’s little doubt about whether stuffing will make an appearance at a modern holiday meal.
This holiday season, try your hand at a variety of unique stuffing recipes found on our Pinterest page at https://pin.it/7C6l9kY. From cranberries to mushrooms, pineapple to sausage, our collection of stuffing recipes are the perfect addition to any holiday meal — made fresh with delicious Sunbeam Bread!