Hushpuppies are more than delicious—they’re a part of African-American history.
“The hush puppy was created during a time of bondage,” explained Tiffany Williams, Director of Multi-Cultural Student Affairs.
When slaves, trying to escape to freedom, “heard the slave master’s dog, they took that deep-fried, battered treat, threw it out the window and said, ‘hush puppy,’” in an effort to quiet the dog’s barking, said Williams.
Students, faculty, and staff learned about hushpuppies and more at Soul Food Friday, part of this year’s Black History Month events sponsored by Multicultural Student Affairs and the African American Student Union.
The goal of the event was to provide students with a greater appreciation of an integral part of African-American culture: soul food.
Attendees were served buffet-style from a menu that included mashed potatoes and gravy, fried fish, chicken legs, greens, sweet potatoes and corn bread. While participants ate, they listened and took part in a discussion about what makes soul food what it is.
Soul food, like the hushpuppy, according to Williams, is more than comfort food. It provided slaves protection and safety.
“When you learn that, you eat a hushpuppy in a totally different mindset than you did before,” she said.
Dr. Jacqueline Wood, director of the Black Studies program said soul food is “a perfect example of African American appropriation—they all come out of a period of history in slavery when African-Americans were given the worst aspects of any animal. We took those and turned them around and made them delicious foods that we would be able to enjoy.”
Wood discussed how prime cuts of meat, like ribs, were not always considered to be quality meat.
Her comments underscored how influential African-American cuisine has been—ribs are the most expensive dish today at classic Kansas City restaurants like Gates and Fiorella’s Jack Stack.
“Oftentimes our students of color have challenges identifying, ‘What makes me relevant? What about my history makes me relevant?’” Williams said, in discussing the rationale behind the program.
Learning about how soul food has shaped both American history and cuisine creates an opportunity for students to be more confident that they are an integral part of the American story.
Students of all racial backgrounds turned out for the event, which takes place annually. Several students commented on how delicious the food was.
The spicy greens were a favorite among many, second only to the food for thought.