Hushpuppies, those golden globes of goodness, are high up on the fried-food chain in the Deep South.
A simple batter of cornmeal, flour, baking soda, onions, salt, eggs and buttermilk, dropped by the spoonful into a skillet filled with hot oil, they come out crispy on the outside, mealy soft on the inside and 100% delicious.
My Granny told me that in the days before air conditioning, when houses were built up off the ground with an open crawl space underneath so that the breezes could blow under and help cool the house, the family’s dogs would seek relief from the hot sun by burrowing into the soft, cool dirt under the house.
When the women of the house began cooking the evening meal, the dogs, smelling the food, would wake up; and hungry, start to bay and bark.
The women would fry up scoops of cornmeal batter and throw them over the porch rail (or through the cracks in the wood floors) with the admonishment of, “Hush, puppy!”
Other legends have Confederate soldiers throwing balls of fried dough to the scouting dogs of Union soldiers to keep them quiet so their location wouldn’t be revealed, but I prefer to imagine sleepy ol’ hound dogs howlin’ for hushpuppies in the soft swelter of early evening.
Of course, in skillets of Chefs of the New South, the humble hushpuppy is frequently duded out with chunks of tasso, crab meat or lobster, spiced with jalapenos or drizzled with honey.
I love them most the way my Granny made them. Hot and greasy from the fryer, dunked in her homemade remoulade, sidled up to some fresh fried catfish.
“You can say a lot of bad things about Alabama, but you can’t say that Alabamans as a people are duly afraid of deep fryers.”
― John Green, Looking for Alaska