Grits are as common on a Southern table as fleas on a dog's back. Growing up, it never occurred to me that grits weren't available everywhere. Then as a young bride I left the South...and eventually went to a restaurant...and asked for grits...and got a weird look from a waitress. I should have known better when I didn't see any Waffle Houses around.
Speaking of restaurants, the other day my sister in law (in South Carolina) went to McDonalds to order the Fruit and Maple Oatmeal that I've been raving about. This was before we were aware that my area is a test-market for the stuff. When she ordered oatmeal, the lady behind the counter said, "Oatmeal? Honey, we don't even carry grits!" ~GRIN~
So, let us first ask the right question, Grasshopper. It is not, "What is a grit?" The proper question is, "What are grits?"
Grits are made from milled corn, which is boiled to soften and then traditionally seasoned with salt and butter. This dish is based on a Native American preparation of corn, making it truly American fare. But, similar dishes such as Polenta (Italy) and Fungee (Caribbean) exist around the world.
Grits have had such a deep cultural impact in my home state that the South Carolina Legislature passed a bill in 2000 to name them the official food of the state.
Whereas, throughout its history, the South has "relished its grits", making them "a symbol of its diet, its customs, its humor, and its hospitality"; and
Whereas, every community in the State of South Carolina used to be the site of a grist mill and every local economy in the State used to be dependent on its products; and
Whereas, grits has been a part of the life of every South Carolinian of whatever race, background, gender, and income; and
Whereas, grits could very well play a vital role in the future of not only this State, but also the world, if, as The Charleston News and Courier proclaimed in 1952: "An inexpensive, simple, and thoroughly digestible food, [grits] should be made popular throughout the world. Given enough of it, the inhabitants of planet Earth would have nothing to fight about. A man full of [grits] is a man of peace". Now, therefore,
Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of South Carolina:
SECTION 1. The 1976 Code is amended by adding:
"Section 1-1-703. The official state food is grits."
I told you grits were a big deal!
Do you remember "My Cousin Vinny"? I love Marissa Tomei in that movie! (The edited for TV version, thank you.) I can just see her in the witness stand explaining positraction and limited slip differentials. During the trial, one of the witnesses (who is identified in the screen play as "grits cook") says, "No self-respectin' Southerner uses instant grits, I take pride in my grits."
I have to disagree, sort of. Although I'm not a huge fan of the instant variety, quick grits are perfectly acceptable. And, they cook in five minutes instead of twenty. You won't find the long cooking version outside of grits country anyway.
If you have never tried grits, give them a chance. Cheese Grits are fun too, after your grits have cooked to package directions, just throw in some Velveeta and stir to melt. But, if you really want to go all out, try my Cheese Grits Casserole recipe below. I always make it for the team that we take to Mississippi every Summer to help with continued Katrina relief.
Cheese Grits Casserole
1c. Quick Grits
Salt to taste
1 Stick Butter
6-8 oz. Velveeta
Place water, grits and salt in a large saucepan and whisk (no one likes lumpy grits). Heat just to boiling. Reduce heat, cover and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Add margarine and cheese, stir until melted. Set aside. Beat eggs with enough milk to make 1 cup. Add egg mixture to grits and combine. Pour into an 8x8 casserole and bake at 325° for 1 hour.
Remember...eating grits will contribute to world peace. Wouldn't you love to be a part of that solution?