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Ask a Foodie: How Did Hushpuppies Get Their Name?

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Q. I love hushpuppies, especially when they have a little chopped onion and cayenne pepper in them. But I’ve always wondered why that are called that.

— A.R.

A. You might be able to guess why these delicious, deep-fried cornmeal dumplings are called by this name. According to “The Food Lover’s Companion,” by Sharon Tyler Herbst,  tradition has it that the name comes from the fact that, to keep hungry dogs from begging for food while dinner was being prepared, cooks would toss scraps of fried batter to the pets, telling them to “Hush, puppy!” Hushpuppies traditionally accompany fried catfish in Southern cooking.

In “The Dictionary of American Food and Drink,” by John F. Mariani, the author mentions another reference, the “Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins” that cited the phrase as referring to deep-fried salamanders, sometimes called “water puppies.” This was a particularly lowly food, often used as bait. The phrase might have come about because a Southern wife might not want her neighbors to know she was making it for dinner, and so changed its name.

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2 Responses to “Ask a Foodie: How Did Hushpuppies Get Their Name?”

  1. David says:

    A story that I remember from my youth (I’m 70+) is that they were fried up to toss to the dogs to keep them quiet while the “revenooers” were snooping around looking for stills. Whatever explanation, fried catfish just isn’t the same without them!