"Thank you DJ for bringing Sook's Cookbook to my attention. Marie Rudisill and Illustrator Barry Moser deserve TTP's highest rating. My favorite page is 127, Tallahassee Hush Puppies. Let's build on our history." Pace TTP RATING: FIVE TRICORN HATS
Hush puppies are a popular southern American twist on an ancient culinary theme. Thousands of years ago Romans and Greeks made fritters: deep fried flour mixed with milk, eggs, spices, and honey. These ancient cooks also sometimes coated their fish and other meats with similar concoctions before frying. Presumably, the practice of cooking leftover coating was one of sensibility and frugality. Were these scraps fed to hungry dogs to keep them quiet? The ancient texts do not say.
"Modern" hush puppies are made with corn meal. Corn is a new world food adapated by old world cooks. Corn bread, spoon bread, hoe cakes, and corn dodgers are all related to hush puppies. The primary difference? Cooking method. We find several 18th and 19th century American recipes for fritter-type foods and fried fish dredged in flour/corn meal and spices. They go by several names, none of them "hush puppies."
It's unlikely we will ever find a definative account when it comes to the exact origin of the term "hush puppies" because the food historians have yet to agree. The general concensus is that the name DOES have something to do with keeping dogs quiet. The place? The American deep south. Catfish, frequently referenced in hush puppy lore, is a favorite in that region. In the larger frame of culinary research, it is not uncommon for recipes often precede their popular names.
This is what the food historians say on the subject:
"Hush Puppy. A dumpling of cornmeal that is deep-fried, especially popular in the South. The term appears in print for the the first time about 1915. Although unconfirmed, the common assumption regarding the hush puppy's origin is that it dates from the period of scarcity following the Civil War, when cooks would toss scraps of corn batter to hungry dogs with the words "Hush Puppies!" But the Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins cites a Southern reader's account that in the South the aquatic reptile called the salamander was often known as a "water dog" or "water puppy"...These were deep-fried with cornmeal dough and formed into sticks, and, so the accout goes, they were called "hush puppies" because eating such lowly food was not something a southern wife would want known to her neighbors."
---The Encyclopedia of American Food & Drink, John F. Mariani [Lebhar-Friedman:New York] 1999 (p. 161).
"Hush Puppy, a small sausage-shaped fritter made from white cornmeal, milk, water, and chopped onions, fried in fat which has been used for frying fish. Its origins are obscure, but it seems to have originated in Florida before 1920. According to legend it was devised by hunters, who would throw an occasional fritter to their hunting dogs to keep them quiet. However, public outdoor fish frying sessions were common in Florida, and it is plausible to suppose that the hush puppy came into being at these, whter or not it owes its name to the abitlity to quieten hungry dogs."
--- The Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 1999(p. 390-391)
"Hush puppies seem to have originated in the day-long hunting and fishing expeditions popular among Southern men a few generations ago. Cooking their catch over an open fire was part of their enjoyment of the day...as a side dish they fried little cornmeal cakes in the pan they had used for the fish, and when the meal was over the leftovers went to the tied-up, yelping dogs, presumable with the cry "Hush, puppies." The name first appears in print in 1918, but probably was used much earlier."
---Rare Bits: Unusual Origins of Popular Recipes, Patricia Bunning Stevens [Ohio University Press:Athens] 1998 (p. 139).
"Hush puppies--golden-brown puffs invented to shush up the barking puppies at an outdoor feast; made by putting corn-bread batter into deep fat."
---American Heritage Cookbook, American Heritage [American Heritage:New York] 1964 (p. 128)
"The origin of hush puppies sounds like an urban legend, but the same explanation pops up again and again in cookbooks, as well as in the Encyclopedia of Southern Culture. Back in the day, the dudes who were gathered around the campfire for a fish fry would take the cornmeal leftover from preparing catfish, fry it up in little balls and toss 'em to the dogs tosilence their whining. Get it? Hush, puppies."
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