The term stuffing first appears in English print in 1538. After 1880, it seems the term stuffing did not appeal to the propriety of the Victorian upper crust, who began referring to it as dressing. Nowadays, the terms stuffing and dressing are used interchangeably, with stuffing being the term of preference in the South and East portions of the United States.
Southerners often prefer pecan, rice or cornbread stuffing.
Italians like sausage in their stuffing. Dried fruit, potatoes, and apples are a favorite with Germans. Forcemeat and farce were also common terms referring to a spiced chopped meat mixture, currently still in use when referring to sausage.
Stuffing in the middle ages was known as farce, from the Latin farcire (and French farcir) meaning to stuff. Farce originally denoted a brief, lighthearted play stuffed in between lengthy religious productions to keep the audience from being bored. How it became relegated to a food is an interesting story.
From Funny to Food: The Story of Stuffing
Between the second century BC and the first century AD, Apicius, a chef created a cookbook titled, “Apicius de re Coquinaria,” which listed recipes for stuffed chicken, rabbit, pig, and even dormouse. The main ingredient choices in his stuffing included vegetables, herbs, nuts, chopped liver and strangely enough, brain.
Stuffing or dressing as it is also called became a Thanksgiving Day meal in the United States sometime around the 1830's. Now, stuffing is made separately from being put into meat and is cooking in a completely separate casserole dish.
The History of Oyster Stuffing
Oyster stuffing was very popular in the nineteenth century and remains so today.
A cookbook from the 1720's in London suggests oyster stuffing wasn't just stuffed in the carcass of the animal, usually fish or chicken, but under the skin:
"raise up the skin on the Breasts of your Fowls; stuff the hollow with this Farce [stuffing], and stick [tie up] them up again."
Another cookbook from 1763 in Boston, Massachusetts explains a “mock oyster sauce” made of beef suet, bread crumbs, anchovy, lemon peel, nutmeg, parsley, thyme, chopped and mixed with an egg. Now many oyster dressing recipes simply add oysters to traditional cornbread stuffing recipes that include fresh chopped celery and onion, sage, poultry seasoning, vegetable or chicken stock, eggs and unsalted butter. More complex recipes add bacon, saltine crackers, and shallots.