Log Cabin Chronicles

I wasn't always a Grits Guy

John Mahoney

JOHN MAHONEY

There was a time, when I lived in Dixie, when I said I didn't like grits and refused to eat grits, despite their everywhere- and über alles-ness.

Return with me to the thrilling mid-fifties in Columbus, Georgia, and Phenix City, Alabama -- home of the rocking Ma Beechies (if you were a soldier, Yankee or otherwise, and hung out there, you know what I mean, brother).

You are off-base on a weekend pass. The fantasy of chowing down civvy grub served on dishes rather than metal food trays, and delivered by fine-smelling female persons instead of being spooned on by sweaty, surly grunts dragooned into kitchen policy duty becomes reality.

You hitch up to the table and the waitress sashsays over and takes your order -- a mountain of barbecue, a pail of hushpuppies, a side of beef, whatever.

"You want grits, sugar?" she says, her pencil gliding languidly across the order pad.

"No, thank you."

"You don't want grits?" Her voice rises on the last word.

"No, no grits, thanks."

She looks concerned. Obviously, no one has ever said "no grits" to her before.

"You sure you don't want grits?"

Now she is tapping her pencil on her pad. She is doing a southern belle pout. There are small frown marks between her eyebrows.

"I don't like grits."

The pencil stops tapping. For sure, no one has ever told her that.

"You don't like grits?" Again, that rising inflection on the last word.

This time I just nod in agreement.

"Where you from, boy?" The last word has an edge to it.

"Vermont."

Her face softens in a Georgia Peach smile. Suddenly, she understands. There are a lot of foreigners training at Fort Benning.

"Oh, you're from Urp."

"Yes," I say. "Urp. Hard up on the border with Kweebec."

She nods knowingly.

"Sure you don't want grits? They come with the dinner..."

That was some forty-five years ago and I am a wiser man today, if heavier and somewhat longer in what teeth I have left.

Today, I not only eat grits, I like grits. Hell, I even look forward to eating grits. They're my new comfort food here in Fool's Hollow.

Did you know that www.altavista.com has indexed 45,910 pages on grits, 30,385 pages on instant grits, and 5,949 pages on hominy grits.

Misterman, there are one hell of a lot of folks out there eating grits.

Grits, I'm sure you know, are little bits of ground corn.

One grits company I checked into uses a whole white hybrid corn that is dried to about 14 percent moisture content. The kernels are cleaned with forced air, then stone ground and double-sifted. From this they produce white corn meal, white grits, and bran.

grits packetMy favorite grits are from the Quaker Oats Company. None of this modern, hifalutin microwave-style cooking for me. I make my grits the old fashioned way.

While boiling up some deep well water in our electric tea kettle I tear open a one ounce packet of Instant Grits and pour them into a small bowl. When the water comes to a boil I add exactly four ounces to the grits.

After the grits have absorbed all the water I stir 'em to get a nice, smooth consistency.

The Ten Commandments of Grits forbids the pouring on of all syrups, sugar, and eating with a spoon. Toppings are limited to butter, salt, and cheese in specified amounts.

Fie! on these commandments. I bite my thumb at them.

I dribble on olive oil, salt, pepper, and sometimes a dash of Wild Cajun spices. Other times I substitute raisins, for variety. And I use a spoon every time.

I tried maple syrup just this week. You cannot often go wrong with maple syrup, I've found. But not on grits.

There you have it. Grits. For breakfast and sometimes in the middle of the night when the urge is upon me, I rise and go to the cupboard and reach for the Quaker box. That Georgia Peach would be some surprised.


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