"What is a grit?" The perennial question asked by so-called comedians looking for a laugh at the expense of a large portion of the population of the United States. Of course, the real answer to that question is: a bi-monthly magazine, which descended from a newspaper sold by boys, recruited through advertisements in comic books.
Now, if you are interested in Southern culture and cuisine, a better question to ask would be: "What are grits?"
Grits are, of course, a staple food of the south. Grits were first produced by Native Americans centuries ago. They made both grits and hominy grits. Grits are white or yellow corn that has been dried and then soaked in lye. The corn is rinsed several times and the acid neutralized before the resulting product, hominy, is produced. Once the hominy is made, this is dried and ground into Grits.
Like the shrimp, which Bubba* kept a constant monologue running about for his entire stay at boot camp, grits can be served in a variety of ways. Despite what you may hear from some people spouting fake "southern" accents, there is no wrong way to eat grits.
Many Southern restaurants serve grits as a side dish with breakfast (although, most allow you to substitute hash browns). Those of us from the south also know that grits arenít just for breakfast. Some other popular ways to serve grits are baked with cheese, sausage grits, with red-eye gravy, Nassau Grits, and of course, that delectable favorite Shrimp and Grits, plus hundreds of other recipes. And, yes, it's OK to put butter and sugar on them. I've done it myself.
Although grits are a primarily Southern dish, I have found them served as far away as Alaska. This is a treat for a traveling Southerner, for even instant grits are better than no grits at all.
There's even an annual Grits Festival, held every April in the town of St. George, SC. Some of the activities include: hand crafts, parades, a carnival, contests (including rolling in grits), dancing, music, and more..... and, of course, Grits.
Basic Grits Preparation
- 3 cups of water
- 3/4 cup of grits
- ~3/4 teaspoon of salt
Using a 2 quart pot, bring water to boil. Add salt to the water. Slowly stir the grits into the boiling water. Reduce the heat to low and cover the pot. Allow the grits to simmer for 5 - 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and serve. Add salt, pepper and/or butter to taste.
Hints: Cook your grits for an extra minute or two if you like them thicker. If you like thinner grits use an extra 1/2 cup of water.
* "Forrest Gump" (1994)