All About Grits

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“What’s that white stuff on my plate? I didn’t order that!” observes any Northerner who goes South and orders breakfast in a southern restaurant for the first time. Northern folks don’t understand grits. Grits come automatically with breakfast in the South whether you order them or not, like butter with bread or cream with coffee.

Seasoned travelers nod knowingly, and offer advice, “It’s sort of like cream of wheat.” Well, not exactly. Grits are normally thicker – not to mention the obvious fact that they are made of corn, and cream of wheat is made from another grain. If you want to really irritate a Southerner, just compare grits to cream of wheat – or anything else in the world.

Grits are a mystery food. We can always spot a Yankee by their reaction to grits. They are the ones picking at the white lump with a fork while politely tying to avoid gagging for the rest of the meal. The Yankee will make a mental note to be sure to tell the waitress not to serve any grits next time. The waitress will make a mental note to bring more grits. Something has to be wrong with the first batch if they are not being eaten.

Grits are a regional food of the South. In the situation of eating grits, I’m rather inclined to side with the North if it won’t start another war. I can eat grits with enough sugar and determination; however, a good ol’ boy will eat them with only a bit of salt and butter and a smack of the lips –  or will pour bacon grease on them. Of course, Southerners will eat about anything with bacon grease on it.

If you know how grits are made, you will probably be even less inclined to indulge in their ingestion. They are made from mashed up hominy. What’s hominy? Well, it’s dried corn that is soaked in lye water until the husks come off and the kernels puff up. The lye is drained and the puffed corn rinsed to remove the lye. It sounds a lot like a death wish to me.

Folks in the South don’t worry much about getting poisoned from things like lye. They like lye so much they even used it in their homemade soap in the olden days. Some claim it is the best cleaning soap there is. The lye soap my grandmother used to make would clean dishes, laundry, hands, and possibly remove your eyebrows if you used it on your face. Maybe they eat grits to keep the lye away from the soap makers.

Southerners like living dangerously, though, and eat other poison foods as well. Pokeweed, for instance, is a traditional Southern dish cooked in spring as greens, something like spinach. Again, it involves much rinsing to remove the poison and much bacon grease to make it eatable. I really don’t advise trying it unless you know what you are doing, have a Southern mama to advise you, or have a husband you’ve been wanting to get rid of anyhow.

Southerners are as proud of grits as they are of cornbread. There are other ways to make grits without the lye process, but they don’t seem nearly as fun or challenging. You can grind white corn and use the fine part as white corn meal and the larger particles for grits. Some folks have actually made grits into a specialty item, adding cheese, frying grits pancakes, and making grits casseroles. No matter what you do to grits, however, they are still grits.

I hope I won’t lose my membership card to Southern culture over my distaste for grits. Lord knows, I’ve eaten enough cornbread and can whip up a fine crockpot of black-eyed peas with ham hocks should the need arise. Surely that and my southern drawl should be enough get me through any Mason-Dixon identity check.

But, please don’t get me started on okra or I’m sunk.

©2003

Any thoughts on grits? Like ’em? Hate ’em. Never seen ’em?

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About Sheila Moss

My stories are about daily life and the funny things that happen to all of us. My columns have been published in numerous newspapers, magazines, anthologies, and websites. SUBSCRIBE to my weekly columns hot off the keyboard and not available on my blog: humorcolumnist-subscribe@yahoogroups.com
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21 Responses to All About Grits

  1. energywriter says:

    Great story, funny too. I can eat grits a, sort of, version of corn meal mush that Mom served when I was a kid. After serving it for breakfast Mom would put the rest of the mush in a bread pan to set, then fry it and serve with maple syrup. Okra – meh. Preferably leave than take, but somewhat edible. My great grandson loves okra. ???

    Liked by 1 person

  2. EttaD says:

    I LOVE GRITS!! I prefer the yellow one grits though and since moving to Scotland I’ve resorted to ordering on Amazon ;-). Have had no luck with getting the yellow though, had a bad experience ordering some from US. It smelt old and was kinda brown more than yellow, but didn’t want the hassle of sending it back, so just tossed it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Don’t remember if I ever had it although I’ve traveled south so I must have. I like farina, cream of wheat and all that mushy stuff so maybe I’d like it. Then there is bacon grease. It may kill ya but it sure makes everything better.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve never had grits, and you’re not really selling me on them. But I suppose I would try them if I’m ever in the South.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. As an Australian, I have to ask…..What the hell are “GRITS!!” I am a little confused. 😁😁😁

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Oh, Good Lord!! After reading the rest of this post, I fully understand now. Grits sound revolting!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. P.S: People eat bacon grease??? EWWWWWWW!!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. artreachm says:

    Hi! I’m a Southerner by birth, raising and residency. Grits are a food group in my house. Sure we eat them for breakfast. But also dinner – catfish with a side of cheese grits is wonderful! We also love grits with spicy shrimp ladled on top! But I’m just as happy with a bowl of grits – salt and butter!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Oh my! If you like polenta, you would like grits! And no self respecting southerner would let even a grain, a single grain of sugar even close to their grits! Or cornbread either! I’ve just spent 5 days in New York though, and I have picked around on those potatoes that come as a side whether you ask them to ‘hold them’ or not! So I feel the pain. This has been mentioned but maybe not this way…a ‘build your own’ Shrimp and Grits buffet is wonderful with Old Bay on the shrimp, grated cheese, fried okra, crumbled bacon… On and on…just wonderful! Try it’s! You might learn to love those grits!

    Liked by 1 person

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