Appalachia Appalachian Food Ghosts - Haints - Spooky

Deviled Food

Deviled food
Recently I read about serving deviled food at Halloween parties. You know things like devil’s food cake, deviled ham, deviled crab, and the king of deviled food-deviled eggs. I never thought of deviled food in the sense that it was ‘of the Devil’ or spooky in any way whatsoever, but I guess deviled foods would fit in nicely along with a spooky Halloween party.

Truthfully, I never thought about deviled food at all-except for the required thinking it took to perform the action of putting it in my mouth. The Straight Dope website offers these historical tidbits about deviled food:

“The word “devil” as applied to food first appears in 1786, when it was used to describe a “(highly seasoned) fried or boiled dish” (references 1, 6). From reference 1:

Devil . . . A name for various highly-seasoned broiled or fried dishes, also for hot ingredients. 1786, Craig “Lounger NO. 86 ‘Make punch, brew negus, and season a devil.'”

“Deviled” as a word first appears in 1800, when it was used in the phrase, “At half past two ate a devil’d kidney” (reference 2). According to the Oxford Companion to Food,

Devil–a culinary term which . . . first appeared as a noun in the 18th century, and then in the early 19th century as a verb meaning to cook something with fiery hot spices or condiments. . . . The term was presumably adopted because of the connection between the devil and the excessive heat in Hell. . . . Boswell, Dr Johnson’s biographer, frequently refers to partaking of a dish of “devilled bones” for supper, which suggests an earlier use (reference 3).

In America the use of “deviled” was known in the early 19th century:

Deviled . . . Any variety of dishes prepared with hot seasonings, such as cayenne or mustard. The word derives from the association with the demon who dwells in hell. In culinary context the word first appears in print in 1786; by 1820 Washington Irving has used the word in his Sketchbook to describe a highly seasoned dish similar to a curry. Deviled dishes were very popular throughout the nineteenth and into the twentieth centuries, especially for seafood preparations and some appetizers (reference 4).”

  1. Oxford English Dictionary Online, 2nd edition, entries “devil (n)” and “devil (v)”
  2. Oxford English Dictionary Online, 2nd edition, entry “deviled (n)”
  3. Oxford Companion to Food, by Alan Davidson (1999), pp. 247-248
  4. Encyclopedia of American Food & Drink, by John Mariani (1999), pp. 110-111


The deviled food items I’m familiar with aren’t all that spicy so maybe over the years the cooking technique changed but the name didn’t.

As part of my Spooky October series I’ll share my favorite deviled foods with you during the next few weeks so be on the lookout for them.


*Source: The Straight Dope

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  • Reply
    mary Lou McKillip
    October 11, 2016 at 9:24 am

    I sure love deviled eggs and cake but the chocolate in the cake makes my face break out. So most of the good stuff is out for me. Why are things with such weird names so good, but so bad for you too?
    I love seeing your sweet Twins I wanted to go see them perform at the Folk School Festival, but the old saying, didn’t feel up to snuff. Thank God they had a lovely day to perform and I know people had a swell time.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    October 10, 2016 at 9:02 pm

    Perhaps devils food cake comes from the fact that Satan is also known as The Prince of Darkness. Angel food cake is almost snow white and devils food is just the opposite.

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    October 10, 2016 at 7:44 pm

    All we posters seem to like deviled eggs. But I don’t like them hot with spicy pepper. Maybe a touch of paprika for decoration on top (as well as seasoning), but not hot pepper!

  • Reply
    October 10, 2016 at 6:55 pm

    Did somebody say “Cake”. Hey., got my attention.. seems the older I get the more into food I am.. Or it could be a rebellious streak, because my Doctor wants me to cut back on sweets..

  • Reply
    October 10, 2016 at 4:57 pm

    I never thought about “deviled” food as connected to THE Devil, and since the only one I eat is devil’s food cake, I still don’t see a connection since it’s not hot and spicy! Suppose it might make sense in deviled eggs or deviled meat if they’ve got a lot of hot spice added?
    I confess I’ve veered off during the ghost and murder stories but I guess even a chicken like me can handle reading about deviled food 😉

  • Reply
    October 10, 2016 at 1:56 pm

    After watching “Outnumbered” on the Fox News Channel at 12:00, I flipped over to our Christian Radio Station and Donna Lynn had just started playing my favorite by Ray and Pap about helping some Pilgrim along the way.
    My grandma Delia Passmore (mama’s mom) always told us stories of when she lived at Nantahala. It wasn’t enough to have 16 kids of her own, but she was always feeding strangers (hobos) at her house during the Great Depression Years. None of them ever bothered her or her children, that was before Dope became so popular. …Ken

  • Reply
    October 10, 2016 at 12:45 pm

    I think Deviled Eggs are good any time of the year. Never thought where the name came from, but I love deviled eggs as a sandwich. I look forward to seeing all the deviled foods that you will show, but some of them I may not like. …Ken

  • Reply
    Betty Hopkins
    October 10, 2016 at 11:03 am

    A friend of mine told me about a friend of hers that is deeply religious who could not bring herself to say “deviled eggs.” She really enjoyed eating them, though, but always referred to them as “angel eggs.” As for me, I LOVE deviled eggs! I never for a moment thought about them from a religious point of view. :O)

  • Reply
    anita griffith
    October 10, 2016 at 10:56 am

    My wife and i like deviled eggs.We never use paprika,but always use hot pepper.Sometimes we get them too hot,that ‘s when you’ll hear the expression,did you stump your toe when you peppered the eggs.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    October 10, 2016 at 9:18 am

    Reminds me of the expression, “The devil you say!” Wonder if there is a relationship between the ‘highly seasoned’ and the red of red peppers and red as associated with the devil which may, in turn, be related to flames. In my case, highly seasoned may just get its revenge on me which is another reason why it is the devil.
    My Grandma did not like to hear any talk of the devil outside of church. Even now, some folks change the name of a deviled recipe to drop that word. And that reminds me of a saying my Dad would quote about “might as well eat the devil as drink his soup.” Someone mentioned yesterday about the ‘cautionary tales’ and I think these are all of a piece. That is, the idea of prevention of trouble being far better than cure.

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    October 10, 2016 at 8:29 am

    It does make sense except for the Devil’s Food Cake. I don’t think hot sauce will add anything to that.\
    Love my chocolate!!!

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    October 10, 2016 at 7:38 am

    I thought the term deviled meant mixed together as in deviled eggs or deviled ham. I did not know that it originally meant adding heat to the mix, But, hey, it makes sense!

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