Everyone’s Favorite Soul Food Side: Hushpuppies

Hushpuppies, a soul food favorite, in a basket on a white background.

There are many misconceptions about the true origins of hushpuppies, a soul food favorite. From how the dish got its start to how it got its name, many commonly told stories are simply not based in fact. As Robert Moss wrote for seriouseats.com, “If we blindly accept the folklore about Southern cuisine, we’re missing out on real stories that are so much more interesting than a bunch of made-up nonsense.”

That’s why we’re discussing this true history of Hushpuppies. We believe that knowing the stories behind the foods we love allows us to appreciate them even more, but they have to be true stories! So keep reading to learn about this dish’s origins and how we serve them at Felix’s BBQ With Soul.

Hushpuppy Origins: From Red Horse Bread to Hushpuppy

Although this dish has been around for a very long time, it hasn’t always been known by the name “hushpuppies.” In fact, at least twenty years before the name “hushpuppy” was ever even recorded in print, people in South Carolina were eating “red horse bread.” 

Red Horse Bread and Romeo Govan

If you’re wondering what the connection to horses is, we’ll give you a spoiler: there isn’t one! Red horse bread got its name from the red horse, a species of fish commonly found in South Carolina rivers. According to a newspaper of the time, this dish was made by “mixing cornmeal with water, salt, and egg, and dropped by spoonfuls in the hot lard in which fish have been fried,” similar to the hushpuppies we know and love today.

But how did red horse bread gain popularity? It started out as a dish regularly made by Romeo “Romy” Govan, an African American man born into slavery sometime around 1845. After the Civil War, he hosted fish frys and other events attended by prominent members of the white community around Cannon’s Bridge in South Carolina. The money he earned from these events allowed him to eventually buy the house and land where he hosted the events.

Along with preparing all kinds of fish, he would make red horse bread to complement the fish. This is what made them famous. After his death in 1915, red horse bread lived on and eventually became well-known throughout South Carolina. 

Beyond South Carolina

In 1940, a fishing columnist for the Augusta Chronicle named Earl DeLoach wrote that “‘Red Horse’ cornbread is often called ‘Hush Puppies’ on the Georgia side of the Savannah River,” and it was a name Georgians had been using for red horse bread since at least 1927.

However, it wasn’t until 1934 that hushpuppies became known nationally. An article in Pennsylvania’s Harrisburg Sunday Courier noted that Mr. Joe Brown’s camp on Lake Harris “included… a delicious cornbread concoction which Brown called ‘Hush Puppies’.”

After this, recipes for hushpuppies could be found in a variety of national publications like American Cookery, American Legion Magazine, and Boy’s Life.

What is a ‘Hush Puppy’?

But where exactly did the name “hushpuppy” come from? We know that this food wasn’t actually named because it was used as scraps to hush hound dogs. This was a dish considered a delicious luxury, not an example of cooks simply making do with scraps. It’s highly unlikely that people were tossing hushpuppies to their dogs!

However, dating back to the 18th century, “hush puppy” was a phrase used to describe a cover-up. Recorded uses of it can be found in the US during the early twentieth century to refer to the 1924 Teapot Dome scandal. It’s not clear when or why this term began to be applied to food, but this may have been the origin of the name.

Delicious, Authentic Soul Food Favorite Hushpuppies From Felix’s BBQ With Soul

Hushpuppies have also been known by a variety of other names in addition to red horse bread depending on the region, such as “wampus” in Florida and “red devils” or “three-finger bread” in Georgia. However, by the 1940s, the side being served along with fried fish had pretty much come to be known as hushpuppies. 

So when you’re in the mood for soul food like hushpuppies, look no further than your neighborhood Felix’s BBQ With Soul. Our hushpuppies are always fried to crisp perfection on the outside, while remaining chewy on the inside, and make a great addition to our fried catfish, fried shrimp, or whatever your favorite item from our menu is.

At Felix’s BBQ With Soul, our goal isn’t just to provide our guests with great food, but with the Southern hospitality that should go along with Southern food as well. When you step into any of our locations, our goal is to make sure you feel just as comfortable and welcome as you would at home. Visit us today! You can even order ahead of time online. We hope we’ll see you soon!