Friday, May 21, 2010


photo from Wikipedia

I. love. grits. They make me smile.

I did not know what grits were until I was seventeen and a married woman--well, that's a stretch because it's difficult to think of seventeen as a woman. Still, I was married and had a young son and was learning to cook and keep house. My (first) husband was raised in Texas and he wanted grits for breakfast.

"What's that?" I asked. "It sounds like dirt."

To some people that might seem like an accurate assessment. People are pretty evenly divided between grits lovers and haters. If you're in the same place I was 40 years or so ago you're probably thinking, "Wait--what's she talking about? What are grits anyway?"

I'll back up and explain as best I can. Grits are made from corn--yellow grits are produced if the whole kernel is used, and white grits if the exterior of the grain is removed. When corn is milled, the finer-milled portion becomes corn meal, the coarser becomes grits. You can read a detailed explanation of the milling process here. The corn is dried to a specific moisture content before being milled. I doubt the native Americans who originated grits would have been able to tell you the percentage; they probably had their own test to determine when the corn was right for milling. You can read even more about grits at Wikipedia.

Since I was newly married and still in that husband-pleasing phase, I learned to cook grits. There were no "quick grits" back then. Cooking a pot of grits meant 20 minutes of careful boiling and stirring to produce the thick porridge-like substance without scorching. It was about like cooking cream of wheat, except that the propensity to burn is even stronger with grits.

I remember my first taste of this odd food. Yuck. "There's no flavor," I complained.

"You don't just eat them," my husband explained. "You've got to mix them with your eggs."

Oh. I tried it. Better but still not nearly as good as all his fuss would make one believe.

Over the next year, however, I too became a grits lover. Breakfast was not complete without them. I became adept at cooking them and rarely scorched a batch. No cook would want to do that, since a pan that has burned grits in it is one hard to clean pan. Easier to toss it and get another, honestly. Except for that wastefulness thing.

As soon as my young sons could eat table food, they got grits. The boys loved them too. They would run into the kitchen with happy little faces every morning yelling, "Eggs and toast and grits!" Grits were a cheap way to fill them up too, costing a little less than a box of oatmeal back then.

One of my best memories of my sons at that age started as a typical breakfast morning. We often played a game of "damming" up the egg yolk with the grits. They would push the grits around on their plates, soaking up and damming the yolk as it spilled from their over-easy eggs. It was fun and a sure way to get them to eat all of their breakfast.

On this morning the boys were playing egg-dam as usual when I heard something a little different. It was the sound little boys make when they're playing cars and a car gets stuck. R-n-n-n-n-n, r-n-n-n-n, r-n-n-n-n kinds of sounds. Puzzled, I stuck my head into the dining room to see what they were doing.

"I'm stuck!" Jon yelled to George. "Pull me out, Bud!"

"Okay," George yelled back. He picked up a small toy truck by his plate, slapped it down in Jon's grits and began driving it through the tough terrain, making appropriate mudding sounds as he went. "R-r-r-r-r-r-r-n. R-r-r-r-r-n" went his truck, as Jon's continued to dig itself deeper in his grits with good spinning-tires sounds.

What did I do? I'd encouraged them to play with their food by damming the egg yolk and now they were just taking it another step by adding other toys. So I stood by and let them get Jon's truck out, then took the toys to wash up.

The boys just ate their eggs and grits, proving the adage that a little dirt never hurt anyone.

Nowadays I admit to being lazy and using instant grits--they're fast, I don't have to worry about burning them and it's easy to make the right portions. I've also been known to carry those little packets of instant grits in my purse if I suspect I might be somewhere at breakfast that doesn't serve them. (Just ask the waitresses at the Downtowner Restaurant. I'm still lobbying for them to carry grits on the menu.)

And every time I eat my grits, I remember those little boys and their toy trucks, playing with their food on a bright spring morning.

That's why grits still make me smile.


Carmen C. said...

LOL, what creative boys:) I've never had grits, ever, I may have to give them a try sometime!

Angela said...

Boys sure do keep us entertained as mothers don't they! lol I just found the cars my boy was playing with in the flour. He hid them! lol They are completely covered too! lol

I've never ate grits and I'm not sure if I want to. They don't look good to me. The Cracker Barrel has them as I have ordered breakfast and those came with my meal but I couldn't break myself to try them! lol

I love your memories of your boys!

lisa said...

I grew up on grits..I eat them all the time..As soon as I serve the grits I put the pan in water because man when it dries it is hard to scrub off..I bet grits would make a good cement.. :) wouldn't want to waste them..My dad called grits Georgia ice cream..cheesy grits are good to..

tipper said...

I love grits! They make me smile cause they're good to eat-and they remind me of my Mamaw-no matter what time of day she would make me grits : ) Your post made me smile too-I love the image of your boys playing with their truck and grits.

Matthew Burns said...

Growing up we never had grits, but I've come to like them. Shirley loves them. I've found they can bve really, really good if they are made "right', or they can be worse than bad if they are made "wrong".

The other night at dinner with some friends in Nashville, we had a discussion about grits as they were prominently featured on the menu, and some of our friends were from up north. After recruiting them to try them, they are now live-long admirers of grits. Luckily, the place we were having dinner knew what they were doing with the grits, they were very, very good.

hummm, now why am I suddenly getting a craving for grits. Not the instant ones though, I just don't care for those a'tall.

Country Whispers said...

I've only had grits once and didn't care much for them.
Maybe it was the way I fixed them. I just thought they were pretty blah.
As for the boys and their just shows they had imagination.

Gena said...

Grits are one of my favorites. You haven't lived until you've had authentic shrimp and grits. Now that's good eating!

Tink said...

Granny Sue, just love that story!! Had a girlfriend from louisana once said GRITS means "girls raised in the South" .

Rowan said...

A lovely story about the boys! In spite of being English I've actually both heard of and tried grits - once! Once was enough I'm afraid, it was a bit like eating the glue we used to have at school. It was called Gloy, don't know whether it even exists now, school was a long, long time ago:)


Love grits. I was raised on them - with heaps of melted butter. Good story. Great images of your boys - sweet memories.

Staci said...

I love grits - never knew what they were until I moved to the south. I grew up on cream of wheat and corn meal mush.

I love packing leftover grits, while still warm, in a lightly greased glass and placing them in the fridge overnight. In the morning I slide the cylinder of grits out, slice in 1" rounds and fry them up in a little bacon grease or butter. Soooo good!

Little Falls Library - NM said...

My husband on his first visit to my family in New Orleans was aksed if he ate grits. He replied, "Not even one grit."

Susan at Stony River said...

My son looooves grits -- it was one of the first things we picked up on the way home from the airport!

A friend of mine in Ireland once called me to ask, 'What IS something called grits, do you know?' Did I? LOL But I wanted them so badly after I hung up, and there weren't any to be had there. *sigh*

Mary said...

What a loving mother! No wonder they grew up so well!

Connie said...

Now Granny Sue, the charm of grits completely escaped me until a somewhat lost weekend in Memphis during a blues festival. One morning, feeling not quite perky, yet oddly adventurous, my hangover and I ordered grits at a little place on Beale Street.

Oh my. Grits, sharp cheddar, bacon and spiced shrimp. For breakfast. No, really, one of the best things I've ever put in my mouth. Creamy, salty, crunchy, spicy. The purveyor told me she had a couple hours of stirring into those grits.

Since then, I think fondly of grits, but seldom order them unless I'm sure they're non-instant
slow-cooked kind.

Granny Sue said...

I need to try shrimp and grits, Connie--several people mentioned that combination to me and although it doesn't sounds good to me, there must be something special about it. Add it to the list of tastes to try!

Maggie and Roger said...

mmmm...grits, with lots of butter, salt, bacon and eggs. Life is good.

Jaime said...

To be honest, I didn't know what they were until I was married either. Aaron introduced me to grits and the tradition of mixing them in the egg yolk. Of course, it stands to reason that's why the kids love them too.

Twisted Fencepost said...

My husband loves grits. But I have not yet learned to like them. I'll stick with oatmeal.

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