Friday, May 1, 2009

If you're eating in the South and you wonder what that while pile on your plate is, them's grits

This question might just occur to you if you are travelling in the southern US for the first time.

Southerners can be sensitive about what you do with that white pile on your plate when they serve it to you. I have committed some of the violations of the "10 Commandments of Grits."

Grits are just another form of corn meal, ground a little more coarsely.

My mother, who was from Iowa, used to make Corn Meal Mush. Right after it was cooked, we would eat some of it as hot cereal, sugared, with half and half on top, and usually with some buttered toast for dipping. Then the rest would be refrigerated and it would solidify overnight. The next morning, my mother would fry up a big batch of Fried Mush in an iron skillet. The results were crisp, thinly sliced hot little morsels that we would put butter on and finally sorghum or molasses. If there wasn't any of those two sweeteners, we'd use clear Karo corn syrup which I still use on all pancakes, waffles, and French toast. When I travel on the road, I carry a bottle of Karo clear in the trunk of my car 'cause most eateries only have maple.

The frying of the Mush generated tons of smoke throughout the house and I can still recall seeing things through a fog on those mornings.

The four food groups of Iowa are:

1. Grease
2. Fat
3. Sugar
4. Starch

Many of those old Iowa farm gals in my family had some pretty hefty hams on their upper arms to testify to this fact.

The first time I had grits served to me was in Georgia. I knew right away what they were, sitting there piled in a puddle of molten butter. I asked the waitress for a bowl, which she brought to me. I scooped up the grits and dumped them into the bowl. Then, I sugared them and poured the coffee cream onto them and had a first class bowl of hot cereal. To this day, I keep a box of grits in the kitchen to be made into hot cereal on occasion. I can only hope that I don't go to Hell for treating grits so harshly.

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