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Eatymology: Hushpuppy

Eatymology: Hushpuppy
Written by Christina D'Antoni | Photo by Courtney Romann

Hushpuppy

[Hush pup’py]

n: Fried cornmeal dumplings, served in spherical or oblong shapes, often accompanying seafood dishes

While hushpuppies are fried and devoured all over the nation, the food has particularly strong ties to and history with the American South. Also known as Johnny cakes, corn dodgers, and corn fritters, these savory spheres are a Southern diet staple (though there sure is nothing “dietary” about ’em!). The origins of the name are not entirely determinable, but there are plenty of theories that point to specific moments in American history. One story purports that hushpuppies were created by a group of French Ursuline nuns in New Orleans in the 1730s, who originally deemed the pups croquettes de maise (“corn croquettes”). A more prevalent story is that hushpuppies were used to “hush the puppies,” to quiet the barks and begging of canines during fish fries among Southern fishermen, and were made from the dredging of fried catfish, starting their long association with seafood dishes. A different variation of that same fable indicates that Confederate soldiers would feed their dogs fried bits of cornmeal to quiet them if Yankees threatened their camps. Predating all these suppositions: Native American tribes in the American South used maize to cook up grits, hominy, cornbread, and likely some variation on the hushpuppy.

High Hat’s Hushpuppies

From Jeremy Wolgamott of High Hat Cafe in New Orleans, Louisiana

Hog & Hominy’s Hushpuppies

From Andy Ticer and Michael Hudman of Hog & Hominy in Memphis, Tennessee

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