Tag Archives: oyster dressing

Southern-Irish Oyster Dressing


“One family ritual we had growing up for Thanksgiving was that rather than having cornbread-based dressings [for Thanksgiving], we always had oyster dressing… Oyster dressing would have been a standard addition to our Southern-Irish Thanksgiving dinner growing up.”

Minor Genre: 

Holiday Ritual; Traditional Foods


The informant explained in the interview, “My understanding is that [oyster dressing] has roots in my family’s Irish heritage rather than in Southern culture.” The informant grew up in Memphis, Tennessee, in a deep Southern setting, but her family immigrated from Ireland in the 1800s and maintained a strong connection with their Irish roots.


Although the informant believed the oyster dressing was connected to Irish culture, my research indicates that it actually became deeply embedded in Southern cuisine. The recipe was brought to New England from Britain in the 18th century, where it then migrated down the East Coast and took root in the deep South.

I think the most interesting part of this interview from a folkloric perspective is the informant’s belief that their traditional oyster dressing dish originated from Ireland. Although my research indicates the recipe was brought to America from Britain, it is entirely possible that the recipe was brought to the informant’s family from Ireland. The part of the family from Ireland lived in the coastal town of Dungarvan, which is located in one of the counties in Ireland that accounts for the highest production of oysters. Therefore, the informant is not necessarily incorrect in her belief that the recipe originated from Ireland –– though it is also possible that her family adapted the recipe from their Southern environment.

An additional note on oyster dressing is that the informant was specific in saying dressing rather than stuffing. Stuffing and dressing are terms used for the same traditional Thanksgiving dish, but “dressing” is specific to the South, and is the term the informant used before moving to California, where her husband’s family used the term “stuffing.”