The hush puppy, a fried snack that is underrated and overshadowed by the likes of onion rings and french fries, is deserving of its own moment. An ode, if you will.
If you are unfamiliar with the food (and I feel deeply sorry for you if you are), it is a deep-fried cornmeal sphere that originated in the butter-lovin' South. Paula Deen makes hers with buttermilk, while other recipes call for onions. The beauty of the hush puppy is that no single one is the same, contributing to its humble feel.
Hush puppies also have a fascinating backstory, which is why they're called something much more interesting than, well, deep-fried cornmeal spheres. Many stories say the snack got its name during the Civil War, when Confederate soldiers tossed the fried cornmeal to their combat dogs, attempting to "hush the puppies" in the presence of Union soldiers.
But Serious Eats passionately reports that that popular speculation is oversimplified, speculating instead that the term "hush puppy" first referred to ham gravy and was named for its ability to "keep the dogs in your stomach from growling." And the recipe was definitely not invented by soldiers, as South Carolinians enjoyed freshly caught fish with fried dollops of cornmeal, originally called "red horse bread," as early as 1903.
It sure doesn't sound as convenient, but when it comes to food history, I'll take fact over fanciful fiction any day.
Another tidbit -- If you're familiar with the Hush Puppies shoe brand, you'll love this: Released as America's first non-athletic casual shoe in 1958, comfortable Hush Puppies were aptly named for quieting "your barking dogs."
The beloved dish, made with a base of cornmeal, flour, milk and egg and fried until golden brown, can be found at plenty of eateries, from fast-food chains like Long John Silver's -- where they're served plain and simple -- to gourmet restaurants like Vintage Twelve in South Carolina -- where they're made with roasted corn and dipped in pimento cheese fondue.
Here are buttermilk hush puppies, served with a spicy cayenne remoulade.
They can also be made with peas, jalapenos and ham, like this.
A crab-cake spin is always an option.
And they can even be turned into muffins.
However you decide to cook and consume yours, you can fondly remember their history as a Southern fisherman's way to keep hunger at bay.