What is a Hishpuppy?
A hushpuppy is a small, savory, deep-fried ball made from cornmeal-based batter. Hushpuppies are frequently served as a side dish with seafood and other deep-fried foods at Charlie’s BBQ and Grille.
The Story of Hushpuppies
Southerners have been eating tasty balls of fried cornmeal batter for quite some time. They didn’t call them hushpuppies at first. At least two decades before “hushpuppy” appeared in print, South Carolinians were enjoying what they called “red horse bread.” It wasn’t red in color, and it had nothing to do with horses. Red horse was one of the common species of fish (along with bream, catfish, and trout) that were caught in South Carolina rivers and served at fish frys along the banks.
Red horse bread was part of the repertoire of Romeo Govan, whom the Augusta Chronicle described in 1903 as “a famous cook of the old regime.” Govan lived on the banks of the Edisto River near Cannon’s Bridge, about five miles from the town of Bamberg. There he operated his “club house,” a frame structure with a neatly swept yard where guests came almost every day during fishing season to feast on “fish of every kind, prepared in every way…and the once eaten, never-to-be-forgotten ‘red horse bread.'”
That red horse bread, one newspaper captured, was made by “simply mixing cornmeal with water, salt, and egg, and dropped by spoonfuls in the hot lard in which fish have been fried.” Govans may well have originated the name “red horse bread,” since its earliest appearances in print are almost always in descriptions of a fish fry that he cooked.
From Red Horse to Hush Puppy
The Palmetto State was not the only place where Southerners were frying gobs of cornmeal batter. In 1940, Earl DeLoach, the fishing columnist for the Augusta Chronicle, noted that “‘Red Horse’ cornbread is often called ‘Hush Puppies’ on the Georgia side of the Savannah River.” They had been calling it that since at least 1927, when the Macon Telegraph reported that the men’s bible class of First Methodist Church was holding a fish fry where chairman Roscoe Rouse would “cook the fish and the ‘hushpuppies’ and make the coffee.”
Hush puppies first got national attention thanks to a bunch of tourists fishing down in Florida. In 1934, Pennsylvania’s Harrisburg Sunday Courier ran a travel piece about central Florida, where the author fished at Mr. Joe Brown’s camp on Lake Harris near Orlando. “Brown can cook,” the writer declared, and his menu included fried fish, French fried potatoes, “and a delicious cornbread concoction which Brown called ‘Hush Puppies’.”
Before long, hushpuppies were popping up in American Cookery, American Legion Magazine, and Boy’s Life, where National Scout Commission Dan Beard devoted one of his monthly columns to his fishing trip to Key West. He published the “famous recipe” of Mrs. J. G. Cooper, “an expert on hush-puppies.” It called for one quart of white water-ground cornmeal, two eggs, three teaspoons of baking powder, and one teaspoon of salt, which were mixed into a batter and cooked in the same pan as the fish.
Besides “red horse bread,” Southerners had several of other names for what we now call hushpuppies, like “wampus” in Florida, and “red devils” and “three finger bread” in Georgia. But hushpuppy was the term that stuck.
Here at Charlie’s
Charlie’s Barbecue and Grillis proud to serve you with hushpuppies with your meals. Check out our menu and add hushpuppies with you order today.
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