The exact origin and reason for the name “hush puppies” remain a mystery. It’s known that “corn dodgers” were eaten all throughout the South. Pinpointing the origin of when they were first named “hush puppy” is very difficult.
“Hush puppies” are fried balls of corn that are usually served as a side dish with fish. It’s been said that these were first served to the dogs to keep them quiet, or “hushed.” One claimed place of origin of “hush puppies” is Tallahassee, Florida.
(Oxford English Dictionary)
hush puppy, hush-puppy
U.S. (See quots.)
1918 Dialect Notes V. 18 Hushpuppy, a sort of bread prepared very quickly and without salt. 1942 M. K. RAWLINGS Cross Creek Cookery 28 Fresh-caught fried fish without hush puppies are as men without women. 1947 This Week Mag. (U.S.) 4 Oct. 27/1 What’s a hush puppy? You mean you don’t know that Southern fried bread like a miniature corn ponebut glorified? It’s made of the white cornmeal of the South, smooth and fine as face powder.
12 April 1929, Clinch County News (Homersville, GA), pg. 1, col. 6:
From miles around some of their many friends found their way to the Leviton farm near Fargo where large pots of steaming coffee, chicken and rice, quantities and quantities of fried perch, trout and cat-fish and literally hunreds of hush puppies were served in a manner fit for a king.
20 March 1938, Charleston (WV) Gazette, pg. 6:
Florida contributed a surprising story about the origin of corn meal mush. The early Floridians used to call it “hush puppies.”
Seems some family cook grew annoyed at the yelping of the dogs at the kitchen door. So she used to pat together unseasoned cakes of corn meal, fry them in a meat grease, and toss them to the dogs to quiet them. But the dogs yelped so loudly for more that their lords and masters decided to try the dish.
U.S. one, Maine to Florida
compiled and written by the Federal Writers’ Project of the Works Progress Administration
Sponsored by the U.S. no. 1 Highway Association.
New York: Modern Age Books, inc.
WAMPUS OR HUSH PUPPIES: corn meal scalded in ilk, mixed with egg, baking powder, and onion, and cooked in the grease of frying fish. In early Flordia days when fish were fried in large pans otu of doors, the savory odor caused the family’s pack of hounds to whine and yelp with hunger. As a means of quieting the dogs, the cook would hastily scald corn meal, pat it into cakes without salt or shortening, and cook it in the grease of frying fish. (Pg. XXVII—ed.) When done, it was thrown to the dogs, after which silence prevailed; hence the name, hush puppies.
The Southern Cook Book of Fine Old Recipes
Reading, PA: Culinary Arts Press
Pg. 30, col. 1:
Tallahassee Hush Puppies
Embodied in the title of this recipe is a most interesting story.
Years ago (in some sections it is still the custom) the negroes of Tallahassee, Florida, that quaint southern capital, would congregate on warm fall evenings for cane grindings. Some of them would feed the sugar cane to a one-mule treadmill while others poured the juice into a large kettle where it was boiled to sugar. After their work was completed, they would gather around an open fire, over which was suspended an iron pot in which fish and corn pones were cooked in fat.
The negroes were said to have a certain way of making these corn pones which were unusually delicious and appetizing. While the food was sizzling in the pot, the darkies would engage in rather weird conversations, spellbinding each other with “tall” stories of panther and bear hunts. On the outer edge of the circle of light reflected by the fire would sit their hounds, their ears pricked for strange sounds and their noses raised to catch a whiff of the savory odor of the frying fish and the pones. If the talking ceased for a moment, a low whine of hunger from the dogs would attract the
attention of the men, and subconsciously a hand would reach for some of the corn pone which had been placed on a slab of bark to cool. The donor would break off a piece of the pone and toss it to a hungry dog, with the abstract murmur, “Hush, puppy!”
The effect of this gesture on the hounds was always instantaneous and the negroes attributed the result to the remarkable flavor of what eventually became known as “The Tallahassee Hush Puppy.”
2 cups corn meal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sweet milk
1/2 cup water
1 large onion, chopped fine
Sift the dry ingredients together and add the milk and water. Stir in the chopped onion. Add more meal or milk as may be necessary to form a soft but workable dough. With the hands, mold pieces of the dough into pones (oblong cakes, about 5 inches long and 3 inches wide, and about 3/4 of an inch thick). Fry in deep hot fat or oil until well browned.
June/July 1940, American Cookery, pg. 40, col. 2:
QUERY No. 6214.—“Can you possibly tell me what ‘hush puppies’ are and how the name originated?”
The “Cricket Tea Room Cook Book” answers the question as follows:
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon onion juice
1 tablespoon melted shortening
1 1/2 cups milk
Cornmeal to make stiff batter
Beat the eggs and add to the liquid; add remaining ingredients and drop from a spoon into the deep, but not too hot, for used in frying the fish. They are delicious with fish.
The story of the origin of hush puppies is: In a camp near Thomasville, Georgia, where fishermen and hunters congregate, the negro cook made this bread. While the men were eating, and to pacify the hungry dogs, they would throw pieces of bread to them with this admonition: “Hush, puppies.”
Florida (Sunshine State Dictionary) • (1) Comments • Wednesday, August 16, 2006 • Permalink
You right! Hushpuppies is from Tallahassee! My famly inventud them. We aint got no money from it, though, ‘cause the fella from Long John Slivers stole the recipee and pedaled off on his three-wheeler with the orange safety flag as fast as him could go. That baseball bat we hit him on the head with sho-nuff woulda hurt him good if he had not been wearin him bike helmet.
Oh, lemme tell you ‘bout one little tecknocality. Hushpuppies is fried balls of corn MEAL, not corn (although corn meal is corn, but gritz is corn, and so is corn chips, and popcorn, and corn on the cob, and corn cassaroll, but hushpuppies aint fried balls of none of them thangs, so huspuppies aint fried balls of corn, either y’all. Since I invented them I thot you should know that.
We call ‘em “doughboys,” too. Don’t know why we calls hushpuppys “doughboys.” But sometimes we do, maybe when the cats are hangin’ around.
Loved your post!