A Hush Puppy by Any Name: Southern Food in Translation

An Italian guy, a French guy, and a California gal walk into a bar. No, this isn’t a joke, this is last week’s culinary challenge. Ever try to translate “hush puppy”? It initially came out as “hashhish puppy,” which is a blog of a different stripe.

Hush Puppy (not a Hashhish Puppy)

Hush Puppy (not a Hashhish Puppy)

Some friends from out of town, whom I shall call collectively European Union, wanted to experience the local cuisine. I’m Southern, I live in the South,  and as the Practical Cook, people know I’m obsessed with food. That means we’re going to Crook’s Corner. Sure, when they looked on Google maps and saw the image, they thought I was taking them to the middle of a field to a building with a pig on top, but they are adventurous, right down to visiting the church in whose parking lot they parked.

Most famous for shrimp and grits and amazing hospitality, Crook’s didn’t disappoint. We started with Bill Smith’s Jalepeno-Cheddar Hush Puppies and marched through Green Tabasco Chicken, Shrimp and Grits, Hoppin’ John (which also defies translation), and 2/3 of the dessert menu.

I would argue that there is a hush puppy in most food traditions, a little bit of fried something. The hush puppy is echoed in pakora and falafel. So I called it arancini without rice and amuse-bouche. Good food and an interesting atmosphere translate to any language. Much Southern cuisine depends on pig and corn, and we had lots of both, in the decor and in the dessert course. The outstanding chocolate pie had a lard and vodka crust.

Basic Hush Puppies

The very composition of hush puppies could start a war, much like my anti-sweet tea declaration. The style represented in this link runs to my preference, a bit sweet and oniony. From The Cornbread Gospels, this recipe is a winner.

For more great recipes, including the base recipe for black-eyed peas for Hoppin’ John and the Green Tabasco Chicken, check out Bill Smith’s cookbook, Seasoned in the South. (Full disclosure, I also once worked for his publisher, and benefited from his yearly trip on bike across town laden with freshly-made tomato sandwiches in the height of the season. Slathered with mayo on white bread, with a hit of salt and pepper, individually wrapped in brown wax paper, we would eat until we foundered.)

Thank you to my friends, European Union, for embracing this food adventure and trying my native cuisine. And to answer the question from the video, the most popular dessert was the mango sorbet—not exactly Southern, but closer to a granita/gelato experience, and a specialty of the house.

Are you a hush puppy fan? If so, which style? Send thoughts, pictures, or suggested locations for puppy consumption to practical cook at gmail dot com. Or post a comment here, or connect on Facebook (The Practical Cook Blog).

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Coming up tomorrow, How to Make Strawberry Jam, to be filmed on location in the Practical Cook’s kitchen, assuming the camera doesn’t fall in the pot.

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