Growing up in the south meant that grits was a staple on the breakfast table in my house. No, not the everyday weekday breakfast, I mean the special weekend breakfast when mom had the time to cook grits along with bacon, eggs and toast. There was nothing like that steaming mound of grits, just the right consistency, dimpled on top with a pat of butter or red-eye gravy. Now that was a breakfast that energized us for a busy Saturday morning of chores or if we were lucky, play before the movie matinee at 1 in the afternoon.
Some folks serve grits in a small serving bowl but I enjoyed it best when it is right there on the main plate touching edges with a big old mound of scrambled eggs and a couple of rashers of bacon. Grits, for you who are not yet initiated with a bit of heaven is coarsely ground corn. We always refer to grits in the plural because one grit makes no sense, unless you are talking about true grit, but that is a different story. Grits are a gift to modern man from early Native Americans as are all corn products. Over the last century all across the south, grits have been ground in water driven gristmills. Today, some of those mills still exist and the holy grail of grits lovers is to score a bag of stone ground grits from one of those mills.
Grits are usually prepared by adding one part grits to two-to-three parts boiling water, seasoned with salt. Quick grits are cooked for 5–10 minutes but the best grits are those that have been cooked for 20 or more minutes until the water is absorbed and the grits become a porridge-like consistency. While cooking, you have to constantly stir grits or they will form lumps, and there is nothing worse than lumpy grits. Some misinformed folks from parts of the country have taken to putting sugar on grits. I suppose that comes from putting sugar on cream of wheat, which looks like grits, but my friend, they are definitely not grits. No true southern grits connoisseur would ever put sugar on his grits, it simply is not done!
During the years I traveled this country, the thing I missed the most was grits at breakfast. But sometimes, grits conquers all. For a couple of years, during the 90s I traveled to New York City twice a month for work. I stayed at the Gramercy Park hotel around the corner from HBO studios where I helped produce a television show for PBS. Breakfast was at a small restaurant in the hotel designed like an old time diner. I would sit at the counter and ask the cook for grits with my bacon and eggs instead of potatoes, the normal fare there, and every time he would tell me, that he was sorry, he had no grits. It got to be part of the banter between the southerner and the classic New Yorker. One week he surprised me by telling me he had grits. I was delighted, as were three other guys in the restaurant. We all had grits for breakfast. Several other New Yorkers said that they wanted to try some grits. When their servings arrived, they reached for the sugar but the grits eaters convinced them to put butter and a touch of salt on instead. They were amazed! Where were grits all their lives they wanted to know. Grits became a staple for breakfast at that restaurant and I had grits every time I ate there. I heard from a friend a few years ago that grits can now be had all over the Gramercy Park neighborhood today.
No discussion of grits would be complete without mentioning that Southerners enjoy grits at other times of the day. Ham and grits with a big old mess of greens on the side is a yummy entree for lunch or dinner. Some folks like fried grits, but not me! I love the Shrimp and grits that are considered a delicacy in the Low Country of coastal South Carolina and Georgia, Yummy! I have also enjoyed grits and fried catfish at many a fine restaurant in the south.
But of course, I need to mention the other meaning of grits, the meaning that is nearest and dearest to boys from the south. G.R.I.T.S – “Girls Raised In The South!” Oh MY!