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.