October 26, 2006

More Help for the Wayward

Despite the fact that I need to be doing work work, I noticed while not doing work work an odd reference in the referrer logs to this post dealing with yet another of the humble foods of the South--grits.

A nice young fellow up in the D.C. area (a city of Southern efficiency and Northern charm) named Paulo has done gone and got himself a box of grits and now wants to know what to do with them. And down in the responses, faithful Possumblog reader and occasional commentor Tom Jackson told everyone that we here could provide light to guide the erring and make sure that grits is/are/am given their due honor.

SO, first of all, before we get too far into this, a good resource is the Quaker Grits site, where you can find out many, MANY things about the inside of a kernel of corn. Grits have heritage, grits have technical aspects worth noting, grits are useful in recipes (and NOT just for feeding hogs!), and grits are available in many different varieties. You want something even better? Here--this has even more stuff about grits.

But let's get one thing straight--just because you can put something in a bowl doesn't mean you SHOULD put it in a bowl with grits. Just as with cornbread, grits are best in their uncivilized state--hot, with butter and salt (and some pepper). No sugar. None. Or I shall come to your house and hit you with a spoon. Now, I know--what about cheese grits? Well, they are good, and so is bacon, but I still feel cheap and dandified when I eat such concoctions. It just doesn't feel right.

Now then, to answer Paulo's questions: "So how do I eat this? Is there some sort of ceremony or something? You don't slice bananas and strawberries into it, do you?"

Since he has the box of quick grits, you simply boil water and then slowly pour in the grits and stir until they thicken up--the instructions are right there on the can.

As for ceremony, unlike the Japanese tea ceremony, it is not necessary to embark upon a series of complex rituals. One dips out a big spoonful onto a plate, right there beside the biscuits and the eggs and sausage, and then eats.

Bananas? Strawberries? Well, people do all kinds of things. They get tattoos, they jump out of planes, they watch reruns of the Newlywed Game, they vote Democratic. Does this mean you SHOULD do something, just because it's possible? Of course not. It makes nice people sad when you do. So please, don't put bananas in your grits. Or strawberries. Or any of your body parts, unless it's maybe your index finger, and you're only doing that to get the last bit of grits out of a bowl.

Now then--some words of caution about grits. Grits can be hot if they just come out of the pan. If you put them in your mouth it will hurt unless they're not so hot as to burn you. Put butter on them to cool them off some.

Don't let grits get too cold, though, or they turn into a very nice substitute for Redi-mix concrete. They can be slightly rejuvenated with redeye gravy, however.

Do not slurp your grits. It is poor manners, and even though they are eaten by poor people, it's no excuse to act like the sorry sort and act like you don't have manners.

If your grits are served to you in a bowl, use a spoon to eat them. If they're on your plate, use your fork or your spoon, but not your knife. Unless they get on your knife and then I think it's probably okay.

Grits make you strong, so be careful when you get up from the table that you don't break it with your newfound he-man (or she-woman) strength.

Grits maybe eaten alone, but it's better to eat them with someone you love.

Awwwww--grits are nice! But remember, don't put sugar on them or I'll hit you.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at October 26, 2006 02:19 PM

And for those not hungry but starved for reading material, there's always Grit.

Posted by: skinnydan at October 26, 2006 02:28 PM

Where, I just noticed, you can get Down Home Ring tones. Assuming you want your cell phone to sound like an idling tractor.

Posted by: skinnydan at October 26, 2006 02:31 PM

Ahhhh, the Grit. What Possumblog has for so many years striven to emulate.

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at October 26, 2006 02:42 PM

I have tears in my eyes just from reading your description of how to eat grits. Sir, you are a true Southerner and obviously a gentleman of high standing.

I was disturbed by your near vulgar reference to sugar in grits. Fortunately, you didn't go so low as to mention instant grits.

Posted by: Larry Anderson at October 26, 2006 02:56 PM

I realized when I started this post that mentioning sweeteners would cause our more genteel readers to recoil in horror. I felt, however, that it was my duty to meet this sort of heresy full on, without trying to shield anyone from the brutal and uncomely forces that are arrayed against grits.

As always, the Editorial Board of Possumblog apologizes for having to be the ones to expose these filthy practices, and ask your forgiveness and that of your grandparents and any small children who may have had to see such frightening things.

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at October 26, 2006 03:04 PM

While on a trip to North Carolina, I ordered grits with breakfast. There were a lot of pick ups parked outside the cafe, so we assumed that if the locals ate there, the food would be good. I did know enough to be generous with the butter, but the experience left me with one question -

Why, o why, would I risk my perfect teeth on such a concoction?

I suppose they are an acquired taste.

Posted by: Diane at October 26, 2006 04:05 PM

Beer is an acquired taste. Grits are/is a whole different thing. Exactly what I do not know but they are different. Lots of butter helps.

Posted by: Larry Anderson at October 26, 2006 04:11 PM

Diane, the only thing I can think of is that they were undercooked. Each individual piece should have been tender. I believe you have grounds for legal action, and at the very least be able to get their Southern citizenship revoked.

As for being an acquired taste--I agree with Larry. They are certainly a taste, but not at all like chicken. Or biscuits. Or paste. Well, maybe like that, except with more character.

Butter helps. As does salt.

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at October 26, 2006 04:20 PM

Diane's were either undercooked or heated in the pot too long.

I like grits, but then I like hominy. I'd like to get my hands on some posole, too.

Posted by: Janis Gore at October 26, 2006 04:37 PM

Years ago, my Daddy was eating breakfast in a local restaurant. Another diner, obviously "not from around here," was giving the waitress a hard time because his breakfast was served with grits. Daddy (who has a pretty deep voice) spoke just loudly enough to be heard at the next table. "You would think that anybody who orders breakfast in Mississippi would EXPECT to be served grits." We don't know if the man actually ATE his grits, but he wasn't rude to the waitress again. Also, I remember eating grits at my grandmother's house. They were yellow, because they were made from yellow corn.

Posted by: Kathy at October 26, 2006 04:48 PM

I like your daddy, Kathy!

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at October 26, 2006 04:51 PM

Y'all know grits can and should be eaten other than breakfast? I do some right fancy tricks w/them but just adding some blue cheese to them is a wonder.

Posted by: Tony von Krag at October 26, 2006 05:40 PM

OK, I'll try them again when the occassion arises.

A lot of women I know who are on the Core version of Weight Watchers (whole-grain only, fat-free everything - but you don't have to measure) actually love grits and have them for any meal or snack.

Posted by: Diane at October 26, 2006 07:00 PM

Believe it or not, despite my heresy on the cornbread question, I would never, ever sugar my grits. I did find out recently though that my sister-in-law's husband, despite being born and bred in a small Tennessee town, sugars his. Blech.

Posted by: Jordana at October 26, 2006 07:15 PM

While I recognize that regional cultures all have their food issues, these debates over grits pale in comparison to the greatest food controversy of them all.

Namely the Matzah Ball Melee.

All wise, attractive, and well rounded people prefer their matzah balls light & fluffy, easily sliced with but a puff of air. Lead shot cannonball Matzah Balls are only eaten by Commies and other riffraff, who require power tools to hack off a chunk of petrified soup accompaniment.

Posted by: skinnydan at October 27, 2006 08:01 AM

Dan, are sure you're not talking about biscuits? Because that's a whole nother discussion just waiting to happen!

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at October 27, 2006 08:31 AM