Hush puppies in North Carolina and other southern states are pieces of deep-fried cornbread that may contain egg, leavening, salt, pepper, onion, sugar, or wheat flour. Elsewhere, the term can also signify a cornmeal dumpling, a piece of baked cornbread, a hash patty, white gravy, or a salsa-like relish. Most hush puppies are spheroids formed by dropping a ball of batter into hot fat, but some cooks shape their hush puppies. A popular explanation of how the dish was invented and named is that fishermen in earlier times used hush puppies to quiet their hungry, yelping dogs.
However they originated, hush puppies are a quintessential southern food. The name is English; the main ingredient, native; the method of cooking, West African. Lacking palm oil, slaves and their descendants preserved the ancient tradition of deep-frying by using lard and whatever else was on hand, including surplus cornbread batter. The hush puppy is thus a descendant of the Nigerian acara, made of black-eyed peas, and related to Brazilian acarajé, Caribbean acras, and Creole calas. It is also an ancestor of the large, sweet midwestern corn fritter, which often contains kernels of corn and is sometimes served with condiments such as blueberry syrup. Hush puppies are usually served with fried seafood and are a typical accompaniment to barbecue and Brunswick stew.
Marion Brown, Marion Brown's Southern Cookbook (1968).
John Egerton, Southern Food: At Home, on the Road, in History (1987).
Hush Puppies, Wilbur's Barbecue, Goldsboro, NC. Image courtesy of Flickr user Alaina Browne. Available from http://www.flickr.com/photos/alaina/1259404439/ (accessed June 14, 2012).
1 January 2006 | Dough, Wynne