“Heh, heh, heh!” snickered Jerri as she began reeling in her ninth bass. I just reached for the landing net.
Things had started off well for my wife: On her first cast of the day she hooked and brought a sixteen inch bass to the net. I was happy for her. I hate feeling guilty for catching all the fish.
However, she kept repeating that performance. I was paddling the canoe, so I couldn’t cast as often as she, but if I hadn’t rigged both rods myself, I would have suspected that she had dipped my jig and rubber worm in some kind of fish repellent.
After two more bass brought to the net, I switched to the same combination as Jerri’s. There was no change, except that we both took a break from casting as I rigged another jig and worm for Jerri after a lunker headed for the territories with the bait in its mouth.
Things did get better. A keeper bass threw my jig in my face and though we never actually saw it, I had a really, really big one on for a few seconds. But there was no honest way of changing the final score. Jerri: Ten bass landed and four between fifteen and a half and seventeen on the stringer. Me: zilch.
She did let me fillet them, and she fried fresh bass fillets for supper. However, she didn’t make hush puppies to go with them after we discovered that we didn’t have enough vegetable oil at the cabin.
Jerri makes wonderful hush puppies. She reduced the size of a recipe from a cookbook that we have had for nearly fifty years. Betty Crocker’s Outdoor Cook Book was published in 1961; it has been republished in a facsimile edition with all the wonderful drawings that make the book a joy to browse. To give you an idea of what you will find inside it, here is the artwork that goes with the hush puppy recipe along with Jerri’s comment.
Note the daddy dog shushing the kids. Been there, done that.
Like many dishes invented by ordinary people, the origin of hush puppies is unknown though it is probable that hush puppies were first made in the southern United States, where cornmeal is a staple food. One explanation is that fisherman mixed leftover cornmeal fish breading with water and fried the batter to feed their dogs. Another is that Confederate soldiers fed their dogs leftover fried corn bread to keep them from barking and alerting Union soldiers.
Interesting stories, perhaps, but once you have tasted a good hush puppy, I think you’ll agree that it would be a very lucky dog who got one of these treats.
3/4 cup cornmeal
3/4 cup water
3 T milk
1/2 T vegetable oil
2 tsp. grated onion
1 large egg
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. sugar
Take an egg from the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature. Grate or finely mince two teaspoons of onion. Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan and stir in the cornmeal. Keep stirring for three or four minutes or until the cornmeal gets thick and starts to form a ball. Remove the pan from the heat.
Pour an inch of vegetable oil into a medium saucepan and start heating the oil over low heat while you finish the batter.
Add the onion, oil and milk and stir until you have a smooth mixture. Beat the egg in a mixing bowl until it is lemon colored. Stir the cornmeal mixture into the egg until you have a smooth batter.
Put the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar into a sifter or just whisk them together in a small bowl. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the cornmeal batter and stir until everything is blended together.
Raise the heat under the oil. When the oil reaches 375º, drop the batter by teaspoonfuls into the oil. Fry the hush puppies until they are golden brown, about six or seven minutes. Use a slotted spoon to turn the hush puppies so they cook on all sides.
Remove them from the oil and drain them on paper towels. You can test one by cutting it in half to make sure that it is cooked through.
NOTES: Use two teaspoons to drop the batter into the oil. This recipe makes a dozen to sixteen hush puppies.