Catholic Recipe: Hush Puppies
Hush puppies and fried fish are as inseparable in the South as pork and beans in the North. Stories about the evolution of hush puppies-delightful little fried cakes made from finest white corn meal-are as varied as their methods of preparation. For on both points North Carolina disagrees with South Carolina, Maryland with Florida, and every other state with its next door neighbor.
The hush puppy tale I like best comes from Texas, where catfish is a dish for kings. Long ago, Texas fishermen made a great discovery. After the catch, the men always fried their catfish in a little fat. One day someone had the idea of stirring up corn meal and water and frying it in the rich fish-flavored oil in the pan. The aroma of fish and browning corn cakes was irresistible to both the men and their hungry dogs. All the pups in the neighborhood suddenly leaped out from nowhere and assembled about the fry pans. With lolling tongues and drooling jaws the animals jumped, sniffed, whined, and begged. Each second the uproar increased. The yaps and yelps ceased only when the cooks said, "Hush, puppies, hush!" and threw spoonfuls of fried batter to the waiting dogs.
Other legends attribute the creation of hush puppies to the womenfolk, who made them when they fried fish at local quilting bees. In some regions it was the sugar cane workers who originated the delicacy while the sugar syrup was boiling in the kettles.
Regardless of who made the first hush puppies, or their place of origin, they come to us from the past, a precious part of America's cooking heritage.
There are many ways of making these crisp golden-brown fried cakes. I like them best with the addition of eggs and chopped onion. Hush puppies properly belong to camp fires and barbecues and appetites sharpened by exercise and clean fresh air. But hush puppies are also appreciated with fish dinners at home. Always make plenty of them and serve them hissing from the pan.
Sift together the meal, baking powder, and salt. Add onion and mix thoroughly. Combine milk, melted butter, and beaten eggs, add to first mixture, and stir until thoroughly blended.
Drop batter by spoonfuls into deep fat and fry (360? F.) until puffy and golden brown on all sides. If preferred, a little more meal may be added to make a stiffer batter, which then is molded into finger-shaped cakes before frying.Recipe Source: Feast-Day Cakes from Many Lands by Dorothy Gladys Spicer, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1960