When I was about two my family moved to Imperial Beach. We left for Chula Vista shortly after that, and I have only one real memory of Imperial Beach: the corn fritters at George’s Family Kitchen. As far as I know George’s isn’t there anymore. The only thing I remember about the place (other than the location — that’s a discussion for another time) is the corn fritters — what I always thought of as hush puppies.
I have one very specific memory of the hush puppies at George’s. I was probably three, and my father took me to George’s with several other people. We ordered and received a large bowl of hush puppies. On the table there was a container of honey, much like the containers of syrup you would receive with the pancakes at Denny’s or IHOP. I always loved the hush puppies at George’s, and always had them with honey (I ate a lot of honey as a child — again, another story). So I took the honey and started happily pouring it over the hush puppies. I think I thought the big bowl was for me. My father stopped me and asked what if the other people at the table didn’t want honey on the hush puppies? I don’t remember anything before or after that moment.
It turns out hush puppies aren’t what I thought they were. Hush puppies are spicy and heavier than corn fritters. Hush puppies often have some onion and pepper in them. Corn fritters are lighter and larger. Hush puppies are coated in corn meal, making them a bit gritty. Corn fritters are essentially corn and flour, almost like a cake donut with corn in it. Still, I would swear that at George’s, they called what they served hush puppies, even though they were definitely corn fritters.
Based on that misconception, I spent many frustrated years occasionally ordering hush puppies at restaurants and being disappointed with the small, dense, spicy things I received. I had given up.
Then one time at the Cheesecake Factory (my daughter’s favorite restaurant) they added corn fritters to the menu. I decided to give them a try, even though they said they came with a spicy remoulade. Well, they were the “hush puppies” of my childhood. I had to ask for honey to put on them, but eating them was like a time machine, taking me back, way back. I don’t care that they violate my eating plan. When I go to the Cheesecake Factory, they are all I want.