Skip to content

Why Are They Called Hush Puppies: The Tasty Tale Behind the Name

Why Are They Called Hush Puppies?

The origin of the term “hush puppies” is unclear, but it predates the fried cornmeal treat.

It was originally used to describe gravy or pot liquor and later referred to stopping dogs from growling in one’s stomach.

The term eventually spread and appeared in various publications, including American Cookery and Boy’s Life magazine.

Hush puppies gained national attention in 1934 when they were served at a fishing camp in Florida.

They became popular in seafood joints on the Carolina coast in the 1940s.

In 1948, an entrepreneur named Walter Thompson created a ready-mix blend for hush puppies and named his company “The Hushpuppy Corporation of America.” Hush puppies are golden brown nuggets made from a thick cornmeal batter, commonly served with fried catfish or shrimp in the South.

Quick Tips and Facts:

1. The origin of the term “hush puppies” can be traced back to the Civil War era, where Confederate soldiers would prepare the dish to quiet their hungry, barking dogs by throwing small balls of cornmeal to them, saying, “hush, puppies!”
2. Despite being known today as a delicious Southern dish, hush puppies actually originated from the Native American cuisine of the southeastern United States, specifically the Choctaw tribe, who would fry cornmeal mixed with other ingredients to make a tasty side dish.
3. In the 1950s, hush puppies gained popularity among hunters and fishermen, who realized that eating the deep-fried cornmeal balls could calm their hunger pangs and keep them satisfied during long trips without alerting their prey.
4. Hush puppies are often referred to as “cornbread fritters” in some regions, especially in northern parts of the United States, where they are typically served with maple syrup or honey instead of savory accompaniments.
5. In certain coastal areas, hush puppies are served with a delightful twist. Instead of the usual round shape, they are shaped like fish and known as “puppy drum” due to their resemblance to small fish. This variation pays homage to the fishing industry, which often goes hand in hand with hush puppies in these regions.

Unclear Origins And Myths

The origin of hushpuppies, those delicious golden brown nuggets of fried cornmeal, is shrouded in mystery and surrounded by a web of myths. While many stories have been passed down through generations, the true origin of hushpuppies remains unclear.

One common myth suggests that hushpuppies were initially created to quiet down hound dogs during fishing trips. According to this popular tale, fishermen would fry up a batch of cornmeal cakes and toss them to the dogs to keep them from baying and scaring away the fish. The phrase “hush, puppies!” supposedly became a common command used by these anglers to calm their canine companions.

Another myth connects the origin of hushpuppies to Confederate soldiers during the Civil War. It is said that these soldiers would fry cornmeal cakes and throw them to their loyal dogs, telling them to “hush, puppies!” when Yankee soldiers approached. This clever tactic was intended to prevent their dogs from barking and giving away their position.

However, it is important to note that these origin myths have been repeated by various food writers and publications without proper verification of their accuracy. While they make for intriguing stories, the true origins of hushpuppies lie elsewhere.

Red Horse Bread – South Carolina’s Delight

The true origin of hushpuppies can be traced back to South Carolina and a type of cornbread known as “red horse bread”. South Carolinians were already enjoying this delectable fried cornmeal batter at least two decades before the term “hushpuppy” appeared in print.

Red horse bread got its name from a common species of fish, not from any equestrian connection. It was a popular staple among the residents of South Carolina, known for its crispy exterior and soft, savory interior.

One man, Romeo Govan, an African American cook in South Carolina, is particularly credited with making red horse bread famous. He was known to serve up this delicious treat. The process of making red horse bread involved mixing cornmeal with water, salt, and egg, and frying spoonfuls of the batter in hot lard. Descriptions of his fish fries often featured mentions of “red horse” cornbread.

The Connection to Hush Puppies

The term “red horse bread” eventually evolved into “hushpuppy,” but the exact reason for this transition remains uncertain. Earl DeLoach, a fishing columnist, noted in 1940 that on the Georgia side of the Savannah River, “red horse” cornbread had been referred to as “hush puppies” since at least 1927. The origin of the term “hushpuppy” predates the fried cornmeal treat itself.

Interestingly, the term “hushpuppy” was not initially associated with food. It was originally used to describe gravy or pot liquor, which is the flavorful liquid left behind after cooking vegetables or meat. However, an unsettling story emerged linking the term “hushpuppy” to a man who used a human scalp to cover his revolver holster.

Throughout history, the term “hushpuppy” has been used in various contexts. During the Spanish-American War, it was mentioned in the context of breakfast. In 1915, a senator from Mississippi referred to “pot-liquor” as “hush-puppy” due to its ability to keep dogs quiet. The term was also associated with the idea of stopping dogs from growling in one’s stomach.

Spread And Popularity Of Hush Puppies

Hush puppies gained national attention in 1934 when they were mentioned as a specialty at a fishing camp in Florida. The term “hushpuppy” quickly spread and appeared in publications like American Cookery and Boy’s Life magazine. This delicious treat captured the taste buds of many Americans.

During the 1940s, hushpuppies became especially popular in seafood joints along the Carolina coast. Their crispy and deep-fried cornbread texture made them the perfect accompaniment to fried catfish and shrimp, quickly becoming a beloved side dish in the South.

In 1948, an ambitious entrepreneur named Walter Thompson from North Carolina capitalized on the hushpuppies’ popularity. He created a ready-mix blend for hushpuppies and established “The Hushpuppy Corporation of America.” This innovative idea allowed people to easily enjoy the delectable treat in their own homes. Today, House-Autry Mills owns the Hushpuppy Corporation of America and continues to sell Hushpuppy Mix.

Furthermore, hushpuppies can now be found in various restaurants across the country. Chefs often put their own twists on the classic recipe, adding unique flavors and ingredients to elevate this beloved dish.

The Many Names And Variations

While hushpuppies are commonly known by their name, they have garnered several other monikers throughout history.

In Florida, they were once referred to as wampus, while in Georgia, they were known as red devils or three finger bread, likely due to their small, finger-like shape.

As with any beloved food item, different regions and communities have their own variations of hushpuppies. Some may add spices, cheese, or even bits of bacon to enhance the flavor.

Regardless of the name or variations, all hushpuppies share the common feature of being made from a thick cornmeal batter that is deep-fried to a golden brown perfection.

From Food To Fashion: Hush Puppies As Shoes

Hush puppies have made their mark in both gastronomy and fashion. Surprisingly, these casual shoes became the first non-athletic footwear in America. By 1963, about one in ten Americans owned a pair of these comfortable and stylish shoes.

The popularity of hush puppies as footwear can be attributed to their casual yet sophisticated design. These shoes offer a unique blend of comfort, durability, and style, making them a favorite among consumers.

“Hush puppies” have become a beloved comfort food and a part of American culture. The story behind their name weaves together myths, historical context, and culinary creativity. Originating from the association with red horse bread in South Carolina, these deep-fried cornmeal balls have gained widespread popularity across the country. Whether enjoyed as a side dish, paired with seafood, or as a trendy footwear brand, the legacy of hush puppies continues to thrive.

  • Hush puppies are the first non-athletic casual shoes in America.
  • By 1963, approximately one in ten Americans owned a pair of hush puppies.
  • The shoes offer comfort, durability, and style.
  • Hush puppies have become a beloved comfort food and a part of American culture.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the meaning behind hush puppies?

The intriguing origin of hush puppies lies in a historical anecdote from the Civil War era. As the story goes, Confederate soldiers found themselves in a precarious situation when they heard the approach of Union soldiers near their campfire. To maintain their stealth, they cleverly tossed their yelping dogs some fried cornmeal cakes and firmly commanded them to “hush puppies.” This unique twist not only silenced the dogs but eventually gave birth to the delightful treat we now know as hush puppies. Today, these savory deep-fried morsels serve as a flavorful reminder of resourcefulness and ingenuity during times of adversity.

1. What is the origin of the name “Hush Puppies” and why are they called that?

The origin of the name “Hush Puppies” can be traced back to the mid-20th century in the southern United States. They were a type of fried cornmeal dumplings that were often served as a side dish with meals. The name “Hush Puppies” came about because these dumplings were believed to have been used by hunters and fishermen to quiet their barking dogs or “hush the puppies.” It is said that they would feed these tasty treats to their dogs to keep them quiet while they were out hunting or fishing.

Eventually, Hush Puppies transitioned from being a dog treat to a popular food item in their own right. They gained recognition and became widely known as a delicious snack. Today, Hush Puppies are enjoyed by people all over the world as a tasty side dish or appetizer, although the connection to their canine origins is not as widely known.

2. Can you explain the cultural or historical significance behind the name “Hush Puppies” and how it became associated with a specific type of shoe?

The name “Hush Puppies” has cultural and historical significance as it originated in the American South during the mid-20th century. The term “hush puppy” was initially used to describe a deep-fried cornmeal ball served as a side dish or snack. It is believed to have been named “hush puppy” because it was often given to dogs to keep them quiet or “hush” them.

The association between the name “Hush Puppies” and a specific type of shoe came about in the late 1950s. During this time, a company called Wolverine World Wide began manufacturing casual shoes with pigskin suede uppers, crepe soles, and a lightweight construction. They named these shoes “Hush Puppies”, drawing on the popularity and familiarity of the food. The name successfully evoked the comfortable and relaxed nature of the shoes, and they soon gained popularity, becoming an iconic footwear brand associated with comfort and casual style.

3. Are there any interesting stories or myths surrounding the naming of “Hush Puppies” that contribute to their popularity or fame?

Yes, there are a few interesting stories and myths surrounding the naming of “Hush Puppies” that have contributed to their popularity. One popular myth suggests that in the rural South, hunters and fishermen would fry cornmeal balls to throw to their dogs to quiet them down. These crispy treats were referred to as “hush puppies” because they would hush the hungry barks of the canines. The name caught on, and eventually, the term was adopted for the delicious fried cornmeal balls enjoyed by people.

Another story revolves around a couple named the Smiths who owned a fish fry restaurant in the 1950s. The legend goes that the couple came up with the idea of frying cornmeal batter and serving it to their customers, but they struggled to find the perfect name for the dish. One day, when the couple’s children were fussing, someone in the restaurant jokingly said, “Why don’t you feed them those hush puppies you’ve been working on?” The name stuck, and the popular dish became known as hush puppies. These stories have added a touch of charm and mystery to the name, making hush puppies even more memorable and beloved.

Share this post on social!