Why are they called ‘Hush Puppies’?

In 1958 a shoe sales manager, James Gaylord Muir, was travelling through the American south. He stopped in a diner called ‘Hush Puppies’. The diner’s name was taken from a dish on the menu, of deep-fried cornmeal balls. When he asked the diner’s owner why he called them hush puppies, he said it was because he gave them to his dogs out back to stop them from barking. The shoe company Muir worked for had recently developed a new comfort shoe and were looking for a name. Sore feet are known as ‘barking dogs’, so what better name than ‘Hush Puppies’ for a comforting shoe? (I learnt this story when I was teenager, from a book on brands, and like to retell it to anyone who will listen. For the sake of this post I googled the story so as to include the exact facts. My story doesn’t seem to fit exactly with those on the internet but, with time, stories like this tend to mutate slightly.)

In this case there is a story within a story. Apparently the cornmeal based deep-fried doughballs were being made by Native Americans long before the Europeans arrived in the USA, and are now predominantly a southern ‘soul’ food, which is served as a side dish to fish. They supposedly gained their name after being made by huntsmen who wanted to calm their excited dogs. However, the legend more frequently told is that they were used, by Confederate soldiers, during the American Civil War, to calm down their dogs when they were approaching the Yankees. But there are endless stories behind this food: that the recipe originated in Nigeria; that the name originated from the fact that Cajun people would deep-fry salamanders (nicknamed ‘mud puppies’) in cornmeal. They even make a sweeter version of this recipe in Jamaica and call them ‘festivals’, which is kind of fun. There are soo many stories to this name, and no facts to back any of them up. But the stories are so incredibly entertaining why would you want to choose just one? (But I err on the side of logic and think that it’s likely that many people came up with a similar recipe, and the name most probably has something to do with dogs. :-))

[carried over from ‘anyadditionalinformation’ wordpress blog]

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