January 7, 1974 is burned into my memory forever. It was the day I was introduced to grits. While in Daytona Beach attending professional umpire school I made the mistake of ordering breakfast without looking at the menu. “Bacon and two eggs, over easy, a glass of milk and a small orange juice” seemed like an innocent request.
When my plate arrived, in the place where there should have been some hash browns or fried potatoes, there was a pile of white stuff. Letting my curiosity get to me and asked what it was. I learned two things.
The waitress looked at me like I had asked what city I was in. With a tone that indicated she knew she was dealing with an imbecile she informed me “Them’s grits.”
I then knew that they were grits, which didn’t tell me near as much as I needed to know. I also realized that ‘Those are grits.’ was grammatically incorrect. My lesson was not over. I tasted them. Then I tasted them again with no better result. A third taste would have been a sign of insanity.
Several of my friends, almost all in a drawl, have since told me something like “Grits are delicious smothered in butter”. That tells me they like butter. ( and probably buttered wallpaper paste) Others have said similar things about piling other agents on them that are also worthy of eating without being tainted by grits. I’ve never heard of anyone smothering grits on anything to make IT taste better.
If you’d like a rough idea of what grits are without having to later sterilize your kitchen, fill a cup with rice and then pour that onto a cutting board. After attacking the rice with an axe for about a half hour scrape the result into a pan of water. Boil it for two and a half days, periodically draining it and adding new water. Avoid letting it go dry and salt. Remove it from the pan and add a quarter cup of kindergarten paste and mix well. It is then ready to eat. I’m sure the flavor is similar as well as the appearance.
“them” starts out as field corn.
There are generally two types of corn grown in the US; field corn and sweet corn. The later is produced for human consumption. The former ends up in places like mangers and grits factories.
Once they are dry enough in the field to harvest they are shipped to the mill where they are stirred around enough to loosen all of the hulls (bran). They are next dropped past a series of fans. These are powerful enough to blow away all of the dirt, weeds, and bran; those things that might contaminate the end product with flavor. The small amount of bran that escapes is later skimmed off during processing.
The grain that is left is then milled and sifted through a series of screens with the lowest result being grits. Workers, probably dressed in protective clothing, collect the grits and package them to be sold to the unsuspecting and the southern gourmets.
Special honors, surprisingly from southern states where they should know better, have been given this breakfast abomination. Georgia named grits as its “state prepared food”. I guess hogs feet aren’t considered ‘prepared’. In a proposition by South Carolina comes this excerpt captured from Wikipedia:
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 used to be the site of a grits mill and every local economy in the State used to be dependent on its product; 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 Charleston's The Post and Courier proclaimed 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."
If you really want to try them, they are often available in stores in the north as well as in the south. In the south the space where you should be able to find them is usually empty, waiting for a back-order to arrive. In the north they are easily recognizable as the boxes with the thick layer of dust on them. I prefer to shop for them in the south, a place I have not visited for several years. I forgot to pick any up then.
Should your analyst allow you to try them get another analyst. If you choose to ignore that step, there are directions on the box as to how to prepare them. In good taste, I won’t include instructions here. Be sure before making them to have the number for Poison Control handy or memorize the antidote, chocolate.
With a little luck, grits will never get to this point in your kitchen or dining room.