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Message From Dean Watson November 19, 2020

Even 2020 Can't Ruin Grammy's Cornbread Dressing

2020 is awful. No debate. No alternative facts. No dispute.  It’s been a goat rope.
But Thanksgiving means we can seek comfort in my Grammy’s Cornbread Dressing.  And that is a happy thing.
A long time ago, I wrote about Grammy’s dressing.  People really enjoyed it.  Lots and lots of people.  For many, it prompted their own great memories.  For others, it started a new tradition.  It’s been pretty cool over the years to bump into people who tell me they made Grammy’s dressing or that they remember a similar dressing or Thanksgiving tradition that they share with me. Grammy and my mother would have gotten a kick out of it, too.
Grammy would be shocked at what a rock star she became (or at least her dressing became a rock star). This time of year, I hear from folks asking for the recipe to be republished, and I’ve done it every year. I put it out a little early because it requires some prep time.  Pay attention to that. Those bread crumbles need to be dry!
I’m reprinting the original publication that first proclaimed the preeminence of Grammy’s dressing just as it went out the first time. No changes. It was titled “I Do Believe in Ghosts”. It gives you the “spirit” of Grammy’s dressing.
While this has been and continues to be a rough time, there are things to be thankful for.  Let’s all take time to focus on them.
Please stay safe, happy and healthy. 
Happy Thanksgiving.

I do believe in ghosts.

Vesta Bryant Watson Cranor, a/k/a “Grammy,” made the best Thanksgiving and Christmas dressing. Second place isn’t close. Actually, there is no second place, because everything else really isn’t even dressing. Billye Faye Vanderslice Watson, Grammy’s daughter-in-law and my mother, made the same dressing — usually in the same kitchen with Grammy. Every time they made it, they’d ask my father to taste it before it went in the oven.

The exchange was always the same.  Grammy would say, “Don, would you taste the dressing?” He’d always dip a spoon into the soupy mix, put it in his mouth and say, “There’s not enough sage.” Every single time. And every single time, they’d put a little more sage in and then ignore anything else he had to say. I still wonder if he even knew what sage tasted like.


Mother died in early 1999. Grammy wasn’t making dressing by that time and died a little later. We messed around with different dressings but they were never the same.

One holiday season, Liz and I were mourning the fact that we didn’t know the recipe and had lost the historians. We sort of chastised ourselves for not writing it down when we had those two around.

That night, Liz pulled a book off a high shelf and a 3x5 card fluttered out of it. On the card, in my mother’s handwriting, was the recipe to what she labeled “Grammy’s Cornbread Dressing.” It was very spooky. It felt like those two old women had been listening and sent us that recipe to take care of us again.

Here it is.

Grammy’s Cornbread Dressing

I’ve bolded what the old gals told us was important. Use WHITE bread for the toast and cheap biscuits, no butter or flaky stuff (not Grands). You MUST use bacon grease to cook the cornbread in … and you must make the cornbread plain. Also you MUST use a glass baking dish. We’re convinced that if we don’t, they will haunt us and say: “I could have sworn those boys were smarter’n that….."

  • 1 recipe of Cornbread (Cornkits is the best — you can get it at HEB; Jiffy and others have too much sugar in them), preferably made with buttermilk or soured milk and greased in pan with bacon grease
  • 3-4 Large Biscuits
  • 3-4 slices toast
  • 1 cup onion
  • 1 cup celery
  • 4 eggs – well broken
  • 2-3 cups fresh stock or 2 cans chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons sage
  • 1-2 tablespoons poultry seasoning (to taste)
  • Salt and Pepper


  • Prepare cornbread and white bread 2 days in advance and crumble fine. Let sit covered with a dishtowel to dry out in a bowl.


  • Mix all ingredients
  • Mixture should be very soupy in order to make a dressing that is not dry.
  • Season to taste.
  • Put in glass baking dish and cook at 350 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until lightly golden/brown.


Stay safe, happy and healthy 


Kirk Watson
Founding Dean, Hobby School of Public Affairs


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