I'm not an American cuisine expert in terms of cooking but an inquisitive foodie at heart. Learning about foods and their history is like giving my brain good doses of nourishment, and today I'd like to share with you some of the food fun facts I find to be quite amusing. Oftentimes, food names are pretty simple and self-explanatory - for example, macaroni and cheese, New England clam chowder, and Philly cheese steak. Just from their titles, we can tell what their main components might be as well as where they were originally invented. There are also many dishes in American cuisine, however, that could make you either smile or scratch your head once you hear their whimsical names. Some of them are just silly-sounding; some are rather odd; and the others don't even make much sense at all. Let's see if you're familiar with any of these American foods with such unusual titles.
This fall dessert used to be quite popular in the East and Midwest of the U.S. It's actually pretty similar to a regular apple pie. There's a crust on the bottom and a rolled-out pastry dough on top. As for the filling, it's typically a simple mixture of sliced apples, sugar, butter, molasses and a little bit of water. After a short period of baking, the chef would have to cut the crust into the filling; some call this process "to dowdy" the dessert! Then the apple pandowdy is put back into the oven until it's fully cooked. Sounds pretty scrumptious, doesn't it? It's a shame that this dessert has lost its popularity during the past few decades. Hopefully, apple pandowdy will make a nice comeback at some point.
Agutaq (also spelled Agutak)
It sounds more like some kind of mythical creature than food, doesn't it? As foreign as its title may seem, agutaq is in fact a true American dish! Also known as "Eskimo ice-cream", it is a cold dessert created by Native Americans in Alaska. Agutaq is a Siberian Yupik word, meaning "mix together." Originally, it was made with only three ingredients: seal oil, snow and salmon berries. Alaskan folks nowadays, however, like to add some extra ingredients, such as sugar and potatoes, to it. Plus, seal oil is often replaced by vegetable oil or shortening. Regardless of how different the modern agutaq is from its original version, this unique ice-cream is still routinely served in Alaskan tribal meetings and festivals.
Mainly consisting of black-eyed peas and rice, this dish was born in Africa and got its whimsical name in the Southern U.S. One popular theory of how it got this unique title is that it might be derived from an old tradition on New Year's Day in which children would hop around the dining table before sitting down and enjoying the dish. Although it is quite a humble dish, Hoppin John is believed to bring prosperity and considered a good-luck food to serve on New Year's Day. The little peas are supposed to symbolize pennies and coins. (Some people even put a real coin in the pot!) To further embrace the idea of wealth, it's often served with green vegetables and cornbread, as these foods are the color of money and gold. And if there's any leftover, you can't call it Hoppin John anymore. Any leftovers of the dish to be eaten after New Year's Day has its very own elegant title: Skippin Jenny!
Limpin Susan is Hoppin John and Skippin Jenny's close cousin. One big difference is that Limpin Susan is made with okra instead of black-eyed peas. The question why Susan doesn't hop or skip like her relatives, however, has still remained unanswered. There has been no explanation offered, regarding this dish's comical and rather unflattering name.
These deep-fried cornbread balls are a popular side dish in many fish restaurants. Although they're available in many parts of the country, hush puppies are believed to have their roots in the Southern U.S. In fact, almost every southern state has claimed to be the inventor of these succulent fried puffs. According to a well-known legend, this side dish was likely created in a fishing village. Fishermen would fry these cornbread balls alongside their catch of the day, and the mouthwatering smells would invite hungry dogs in the neighborhood to come and bark for their share of food. Trying to appease their four-legged friends, the fishermen would throw some of the cornbread to the dogs with the admonition "Hush, puppy!"
The name of this bread may be a little more on the freaky than the funny side, and the history behind it perfectly explains why. This fried flat bread is a Native American food, originally made as part of a ritual for the dead, held ten days after a person has died. In the ritual, this bread would be left on a plate overnight for the departing soul, and if it's found to be undisturbed the following morning, that would mean the spirit has left the earth in peace. Nowadays, it's still one of the traditional foods served at the Seneca Indian Foods Dinner and many other Native American feasts.
Pigs in a Blanket
After gaining their initial fame in the 1960s, Pigs in a Blanket has always remained one of America's most popular finger foods served at barbecue parties and buffet restaurants. They are basically hot dogs "blanketed" in some type of bread. Oftentimes they're made with either white bread or crescent roll triangles. In some breakfast restaurants, however, Pigs in a Blanket would come in rolled-up pancakes. According to The American Farm Bureau Foundation's "Dates to Celebrate Agriculture" calendar, April 24 is the National Pigs in a Blanket Day.
Potlikker, also known as pot liquor, is the liquid left over from cooking green leafy vegetables, such as collard, mustard and turnip greens. The greens are normally slow-cooked with ham hocks, bacon fat or cracklings, as well as some onion, garlic and red pepper. It used to be a staple among rural folks in the Southern U.S. Now it has not been as popular, but those who still enjoy it usually sop it up with cornbread or simply pour the potlikker over bread slices.
What does scrapple even mean? Well, it means "scraps!" First introduced by German Mennonites in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1691, some food historians believe it might be the first processed pork product ever invented in America. Scrapple is a mixture of pork scraps, cornmeal, flour and spices, which is formed into a loaf, then later sliced and fried. It's pretty famous among rural residents in the mid-Atlantic region, and traditionally served for breakfast with either ketchup or maple syrup.
Created by the Pennsylvania Dutch, this simple pie is made with molasses, sugar, flour, baking soda and lots of butter! It's a famous dessert among the Amish, Mennonites, and those of the Dutch and German heritage. As for the origin of its puzzling name, some said that bakers used to leave these pies to cool on the windowsill, and a cloud of uninvited flies would quickly make their presence at the window. Yelling "shoo, fly!" was thus a part of their pie-making routine.
Om Paramapoonya (author) on February 07, 2013:
@PaisleeGal - Glad you enjoyed the hub. Some of these stories are even crazier than the food names themselves, aren't they? lol
Pat Materna from Memphis, Tennessee, USA on February 07, 2013:
Interesting and fun hub!! Most of these I've heard of and even made some of them but really did not know how they got their names. A good read! Voted up!
Om Paramapoonya (author) on December 10, 2012:
@Millionaire Tips - Ah, Ants on a Log! I forgot to include that one. It's just celery, peanut butter and raisins, isn't it? Yummy :)
Shasta Matova from USA on December 09, 2012:
We do have some unusual names for our foods. I've only heard about half of these, so I appreciate the lesson. The apple pandowdy looks really good. Voted up. Now we have names intentionally created to entice kids, like ants on a log.
Om Paramapoonya (author) on November 29, 2012:
@leahlefler - Yeah, your boys would probably enjoy doing the quirky "Hoppin John" ritual on New Year's Eve. And I totally agree that scrapple does sound like Spam! Glad you stopped by, and thanks for your feedback :)
Leah Lefler from Western New York on November 28, 2012:
I love the anecdotes behind these foods! I have to look up the tradition behind "Hoppin John," because that would be a really fun thing to do with my kids on New Year's Eve. The Limpin Susan gave me a chuckle. I had never heard of scrapple before - it sounds like the original Spam, haha!
Om Paramapoonya (author) on November 16, 2012:
@CassyLu - Thanks for dropping by, Cassy. I love hush puppies so I guess I should visit the south more often!
CassyLu1981 from Spring Lake, NC on November 12, 2012:
Love these :) I've eaten almost all of then!!! Hush puppies are huge in the south where my hubby is from! Excellent hub! Voted up and shared :)
Audrey Kirchner from Washington on November 06, 2012:
Yeah--he kind of makes us smile--a lot while we are going GRI--FFF---IN! He is a pistol and one of a kind--I can honestly say I've never had a funnier dude in all my life as a dog~
Om Paramapoonya (author) on November 06, 2012:
@akirchner - You have an awesomely talented dog! Be proud of him! LOL Your little Griffy stories really made me smile.
@lindacee - I love hush puppies, too. I had Hoppin John once but didn't really like it; perhaps that particular restaurant didn't prepare it well. I'll be happy to try it again at another place, though. Glad this hub brought back your yummy memories!
@spartucusjones - Awwww! Thanks for the read and feedback. I don't feel guilty that you're hungry, though. :P
CJ Baker from Parts Unknown on November 05, 2012:
Very informative and amusing hub! Personally I love eating pig in a blanket. The only thing I don't like about the hub is that you are making me hungry.
Linda Chechar from Arizona on November 05, 2012:
I love Hoppin' John and Hush Puppies. Can't tell I spent many years in the South, can you? Your food trivia Hub brought back many fond food memories! :) Agutaq and Scrapple -- not so much!
Audrey Kirchner from Washington on November 03, 2012:
Om--that excuse is wearing thin--I think he is just a foodie and that's all there is to it....he has a fetish about anything that could possibly find it's way into his stomach. He ran by Bob the other night with a huge Yukon gold potato crammed in his mouth--the only reason he didn't eat it was because he couldn't figure out (yet) how to crunch down on it. Last year, it was an acorn squash off my windowsill. I try so hard not to leave anything Griffin-ish out but he's quick! He even snagged Bob's sandwich when he was walking from the kitchen to the living room--the arm swung back and Griffin nicely nipped it from his fingers without touching him! My son calls him HamBurglar. He does love apple crisp too--so I have no doubt ShooFly Pie might need to be ShooGriffin Pie!
Om Paramapoonya (author) on November 03, 2012:
@Goodlady - Devil on Horseback! That's the coolest food name I've ever heard of. I'm looking forward to reading your hub about it.
@flagostomos - I agree! It does look yummy.
@watergeek - Yep, I believe that is an old iron skillet. Just like you, I have never had most of these foods but would really love to try all of them!
@randomcreative - Thanks, Rose. Glad you found this food trivia interesting!
@Drpooja - Thanks a lot!
Om Paramapoonya (author) on November 03, 2012:
@Emma Harvey - Thanks, Emma. Yeah, I think Pigs in a Blanket might be known almost worldwide.
@akirchner - Haha Yes, I bet Griff would love to eat most of your shoofly pie if you make one. Can't believe he stole your appricot souffle. Let's think about it this way: he has great taste in food!
@Peggy W - Glad you enjoyed reading about the origins of these funny food names, Peggy. Also, thanks a bunch for voting and sharing!
@Austinstar - Yeah, I think agutak is the most unheard of on this list. I got pretty hungry myself when I was writing this hub lol
Dr Pooja on November 03, 2012:
Never heard of these dishes but was an interesting article.
Rose Clearfield from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on November 02, 2012:
What a fun topic for an article! I was not familiar with a number of these dishes. Very informative.
Susette Horspool from Pasadena CA on November 02, 2012:
That apple pandowdy is in an iron frying pan, isn't it? Is that what they used to bake them in? I've heard of maybe a third of these. The only ones I've eaten are hush puppies and pigs in a blanket. I always wondered what potlikker was, but not enough to look it up. ;) Interesting hub, Om.
flagostomos on November 02, 2012:
I haven't had any of these foods, but shoofly pie looks delicious!
Penelope Hart from Rome, Italy on November 02, 2012:
Nice one! We also have devil on horseback! Might write a hub on it myself. Great stuff. Voting and pinning.
Lela from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on November 02, 2012:
I have heard of all of these except for the agutak in Alaska. I've never been to that state.
I love how you put this together. And it does make me hungry for some hush puppies :-)
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on November 02, 2012:
I have heard of some of these and not others but reading about how they all got their names was most interesting. You do have an inquisitive mind! Haha! Great subject matter for a hub. Now...if I was still playing Trivial Pursuit, I'd be primed and ready! Up and interesting votes + will share.
Audrey Kirchner from Washington on November 02, 2012:
Cute piece, Om--makes me a little hungry for those piggies in a blanket though~~~ I always wondered why someone would call it shoofly pie--I should try making this when we have the hundreds of cows out in the wetlands behind us and the flies are insane! I can't count on my mals to help out (much) although they do try to catch them--and bees--and wasps....on second thought, if I made the pie--Griffin would eat it! Last snag for our light footed foodie....my apricot souffle last weekend. Dang the guy is like stealth....deadly and silent!
Emma Kisby from Berkshire, UK on November 02, 2012:
As a Brit these are all new to me - apart from Pigs in Blankets. Very interesting indeed!