Don’t Eat Lumpy Grits

Life is too short to eat lumpy grits. That is the first rule of thumb if you are new to gritsdom. People who have tried grits and came away with, shall we say, a bad taste in their mouth, almost surely consumed substandard grits. If there are clumps to be found, the grits should be stamped null and void and trashed. The other possible textural resons for a bad grits experience are too much water, rendering the grits soupy, or too little water, resulting in a grit brick that separates into little clumps — different from lumps but still undesirable. Beyond that, the only reason I can imagine for bad grits is lack of proper seasoning. Grits need plenty of salt, pepper, and butter.  Ah ha! you might say. I knew it. They are bland, tasteless bowls of nothingness.  Not so! Imagine, if you will, a fresh hot loaf of bread. Heavenly, right? But it began as a bowl of flour, ground wheat. You could have put water in it and made a pot of hot paste, called it bread and served it to bread neophytes and had them thinking that is what bread is supposed to taste like. Newbies need to go to a bakery and eat a warm croissant before forming an opinion of bread. Grits initiates should probably go to Natchez, Miss, and breakfast on some Mama Dot Grits at Dunleith Historic Inn for their first venture into the wonderful world of grits.

For those living in LA (Lower Alabama to those not fortunate enough to reside here), a terrific starting point is the East Shore Cafe on Main Street in Daphne.

This photo of East Shore Cafe is courtesy of TripAdvisor

This charming cafe built in a former schoolhouse has an impressive menu, and their breakfast, lunch, and dinner offerings are sure to please the pickiest palate. The menu proclaims the grits to be famous. I am not sure how far their fame extends, but I do know they taste just like they are supposed to. I breakfasted on their Cafe Plate, and the grits were seasoned and buttered to perfection and the consistency was just right. Not a lump in sight. I was told the cook is a Yankee, so it is a fair assumption that you don’t have to be born down in these parts to have grits in the blood. My compliments to the chef. Those of you who already know your grits will not be disappointed, and neophytes will have an excellent introduction to the basics. Grits 101, as it were.

Do yourselves a favor. Go have some good grits, and come back here next week to see what Grits have got going on.

The Origin of the Grit

Just about every Southerner who has traveled north of the Mason-Dixon has been asked by a Yankee, or some other foreigner, “What is a grit?” Now, down South, we all know you can’t have just one grit.  Grits are, depending on who you ask, a breakfast food, a culinary medium for sculpting more exotic fare — such as shrimp and grits with crawfish gravy — or just possibly, a religion.

Technically, grits are ground hominy, which, in turn, is ground yellow or white corn.  Traditionally, the hominy for grits was ground on a stone mill.  Thus, stone-ground grits are the only choice for purists and followers of the Holy Order of Hominy. The process is to then pass the ground hominy  through screens to create  a coarse material, grits, or a more  finely sifted material called grit meal.

The Mecca of grits is an area stretching from Texas to Virginia, sometimes called the “grits belt,” from which come three-quarters of the grits sold in the U.S.  The state of Georgia, while not adhering to an actual doctrine of gritology, did declare grits to be its official prepared food in 2002.  South Carolina beat them to the punch by a couple of decades,  introducing  a 1976 bill declaring:

Whereas, throughout its history, the South has ‘relished its grits’, making them ‘a symbol of its diet, its customs, its humor, and its hospitality’; and whereas, every community in the State of South Carolina was once the site of a grits mill and every local economy in the State used to be dependent on its products; and whereas, grits has been a part of the life of every South Carolinian of whatever race, background, gender, and income; and whereas, grits could very well play a vital role in the future of not only this State, but also the world, if, as The Charleston News and Courierproclaimed in 1952: ‘An inexpensive, simple, and thoroughly digestible food, [grits] should be made popular throughout the world. Given enough of it, the inhabitants of planet Earth would have nothing to fight about. A man full of [grits] is a man of peace’. Now, therefore, be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of South Carolina: Section 1. The 1976 Code is amended by adding: ‘Section 1-1-703. The official state food is grits.

Just sayin’, Grits are serious business down here — on the breakfast table and in the political arena. No other food, or religion for that matter,  has been speculated to have the potential to bring about world peace.

As I am a big supporter of  peace, local and world, I decided to do my part by furthering knowledge of the grit in all its forms through weekly postings on this Grits blog. In the interest of the betterment of mankind, I will visit grits purveyors wherever I may find them and report the unvarnished truth.  Stay tuned.