Hush Puppies

One prevalent aspect of many typical southern foods is the deep-fried batter. The sensation of biting into a crispy outer shell with a tender inside has attracted many of those that live in the southern regions of the United States. One of the delicacies that I have been introduced to while living in the south are Hush Puppies. These golden brown nuggets consist of a thick cornmeal batter, typically in a ball shape. Commonly eaten as an appetizer, this dish can accompany many other southern delicacies such as catfish. Even though the concept of frying cornmeal has been around for a long time, the specific term wasn’t coined until the 1900’s. While there are many stories on where the name originates, the general consensus is that it came from appeasing whining dogs. Whether they were hunting companions that came with southern catfish fishers or dogs that followed soldiers during the Civil War, many of the stories include the phrase “hush puppy!” Along with the unique name, there are many nicknames for the cornmeal treat: Red Horse Bread, Wampus, Red Devils and Three Finger Bread. Despite the various names coming from different regions, many people know it as the iconic Hush Puppy. There are also many stories on where they came from, speculations varying from Atlanta to South Carolina. Although the specifics are unclear, there’s no doubt that this convenient food comes from the south. With the rise in popularity in southern foods, hush puppies have made it around the country, appearing in states as far as California. The specific reason this dish got popular was when tourists traveled to Florida to fish when they encountered the food in restaurants around. When first encountering this food when I was younger, I was perplexed by the unique name. The fried cornmeal was much more pleasant than the initial presentation. Even with the plethora of fried foods in the south, Hush Puppies rightfully have their own recognition with those that enjoy the treat.

Professor Mary Trent (Art History)

Professor Mary Trent did her undergraduate education at the University of Chicago and then moved on to earn her Masters and Ph.D. at the University of California Irvine. She is a part of the Art and Architecture history at the College of Charleston and her area of specialization consists of American and African Art and History of Photography. As a part of her job, she works on African American photography, specifically set in the south in the 19th and 20th centuries. She also focuses on American art history, such as pieces that show the racial conflict that occurred during the Civil War. In her personal life, she mentions that “she didn’t grow up southern, but gained the culture through visiting a lot” due to her parents. Although she didn’t grow up in the south, her parents did and she hopes that her kids will get to grow up in the south too. She explains that she has seen some changes to the south and is curious about how it’ll change for the better. In our interview, I asked her what her overall impression of the south was and she replied “I had a stereotype of the south. I believed that it was a backward place and horribly racist. I didn’t think anything innovative was happening there.” She thought the south heavily ignored black culture and that many marginalized cultures were not studied. After coming down to the south, Trent noticed that it wasn’t all that she thought. She also realized that there were many racial issues occurring in the north too. Currently, she got permission to take care of a photo album by Ellen Craft that is now held in the Avery Research Center. She recently took an FYE class to go see the album and tell its story. Ellen Craft was enslaved in Georgia but escaped by pretending to be a slave owner with her own husband being her ‘slave’. This album is passed down through the women of the Craft family and ended up in Charleston. Trent’s emphasis on this album is that it shows what it’s like to have been a part of an African American family at that time.