Growing up, the Christmas dinner menu at my parents’ house was very similar to the Thanksgiving dinner menu at my Gran’s house. The staples included turkey, green beans, ham, a cranberry orange salad, and of course, dressing. My aunt would bring piles of cookies, and another aunt would bring a Jell-O salad. My dad was in charge of carving the turkey and the ham, and my uncle would stand there and tear cornbread for the dressing.
I loved it all, save two things: Jell-O salad and the cornbread dressing.
Jell-O salad just isn’t redeemable, so we aren’t going to waste our time talking about that.
But I’d had cornbread dressing, or stuffing, at my Gran’s house, and I loved it. And the dressing/stuffing at my mom’s house was, er, different. And I was young, and knew nothing about flavors, and for the life of myself, I couldn’t understand why it was so different.
To be honest, I preferred stuffing from a box at the grocery store to my uncle’s homemade cornbread dressing.
Fast forward a couple of decades.
I’m engaged to my husband, and he takes me to their family Thanksgiving. His mom explains to me that their dressing recipe has been passed down for years, and is the most delicious thing I’ll ever taste.
And then she serves it up, and the planets aligned and the heavens parted and the stars shined down with blessings from above. It was amazing. Incredible, homemade dressing that, wonder of wonders, tasted almost exactly like the stuff out of the box. Which is exactly how stuffing should taste, I reckoned.
My uncle, a Cherokee Indian, refers to his recipe as Red Mans’ Dressing, and turns up his nose at my White Mans’ Dressing. When I showed up at Christmas with a pan of my mother-in-law’s dressing one year, we had spirited conversation over the differences in the two recipes. Turns out, the main difference is the addition of sausage, which makes so much sense, because sausage is a food group to my taste buds.
In fact, sausage would probably be an excellent addition to this dressing recipe. I might try that sometime.
So here you go. My mother-in-law, Nana’s, dressing recipe.