34. Grits: It’s What’s for Breakfast

29 Mar

I cannot remember being introduced to grits. No Southerner can. Grits are just part of our lives, natural as breathing…or bacon. But when people learn that I’m Southern and ask if I eat grits, I can’t help rolling my eyes. On the one hand, duh. But on the other, who cares?

For the record, yes, I eat grits. But they’re really not that big a deal. No Southerner I know likes them half as much as people think we do. If there are grits connoisseurs out there, I’ve never heard of them. I’m tempted to Google and find out. But again, who cares?

College kids might make a meal out of grits when running low on Kraft Macaroni and Cheese or Top Ramen, but for the most part, they’re a side dish. A breakfast side dish at that.

Still, folks are curious about our grit-eating tendencies, so here goes:

1. Nobody eats plain grits. They are quite bland and require much doctoring to become anywhere near palatable.

2. Southerners do not add sugar to grits. I can’t really explain this because Southerners tend to have raging sweet teeth, but some things are just meant to be savory. See cornbread.

3. Cheese grits are made with American cheese. Don’t try to go fancy and use cheddar. It just doesn’t work. If you can’t bring yourself to purchase a hunk of Velveeta, Kraft singles will do in a pinch.

4. Meat isn’t mandatory (surprise!), but I’ve yet to meet a bowl of grits that couldn’t be improved with a healthy sprinkling of bacon or sausage.

5. Instant grits are just wrong. Especially the “flavored” varieties: bacon, ham and cheese, red eye gravy, etc. If you live outside the South, don’t worry, you’ll never encounter “flavored” instant grits, unless you consider “plain” a flavor.

6. If you move away from the South, make sure you have a reliable grits connection. I’ve made some valiant attempts with locally available grits, but was inevitably disappointed.

I introduced Geoff to the sub-standard grits with the caveat that they were sub-standard. He heaped some leftover chili on top of them and pronounced them “not that bad.” Yes, chili. On GRITS. Four (gritless) years later, I’m still dumbfounded.

p.s. Last night I had some cheesy grits off the “New Orleans” menu at Coastal Kitchen here in Seattle and am loathe to admit that they were quite possibly the best grits I’ve ever had. However, my Authentic Southern Food snobbery was vindicated by the fact that A. The grits were served as a DINNER side dish and B. Two portions of their attempt at pig, “Miss Em’s Pork Dinner,” went home in a doggie bag for my friend Karen’s dog.

p.s. #2 Two years later, I’m amending this to say that I have A. found a decent grits supplier in Seattle and B. successfully made grits with cheddar cheese.

What’s your favorite way to enjoy grits?

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4 Responses to “34. Grits: It’s What’s for Breakfast”

  1. busyhandsandasweettooth January 26, 2011 at 5:02 pm #

    I’ve gotta disagree with you on a couple points here. Maybe it’s because I’m Texan and not exactly Deep-South Southern, but I’ve shared a few meals with folks who deeply cherish grits. It is through these folks that I learned that Cheddar cheese (with a copious amount of butter) does make for a delicious bowl. Thirdly, It has been my experience that grits are about as much of side-dish as oatmeal is- which is to say, they can be served on the side, but are equally worthy and commonplace standing alone, front and center.
    Fourthly, and I’m not sure how common this is around the state as a whole, but I have come to enjoy grits sweetened with syrup. A friend introduced me to this idea, and I don’t think it’s a terrible one.
    That said, you’re right about not being able to find worthwhile (or any) grits up North. It really is a travesty. Grits would be a great warm-up-your-innards dish on some of those disgustingly snowy nights.

  2. girloutofdixie January 30, 2011 at 3:26 pm #

    1. Ok, ok, so now I HAVE heard of some grits connoisseurs! 🙂

    2. I, myself, have never been able to make decent grits with cheddar cheese, but I am glad to know that it can be done. You’ve given me the hope I needed to try again (if I can find some decent grits around here).

    3. In restaurants, I’ve mostly seen grits as a side dish, but I will not deny that some grits can stand on their own.

    4. We’ll have to agree to disagree on the sweetened grits idea.

    Someone ought to start an online grits store to service transplanted Southerners!

  3. Mama Steph February 28, 2016 at 2:38 pm #

    Super late to the party, but just came across your blog! I have enjoyed it so far! 🙂 I am one who adores grits, and had them as part of Sunday dinner today. I made them with some cream, red pepper flakes, garlic, and cooked until creamy. Then I added about a cup of shredded cheddar at the end, whisking until it was all melted and smooth. Served them with pork chops and green beans. They were slap yo’ mama good. 😉 I couldn’t agree more about the instant grits thing. How dare they even exist, especially the flavored ones, as you said. Disgusting.

  4. Anonymous May 2, 2017 at 8:38 am #

    My father is from Albany, Georgia and my mother was from Op, Alabama. NO sugar on grits. NO quick grits and for sure, no instants in the packet. I HATED grits growing up. Perhaps because we had them all the time but now at almost 50 i LOVE them. I eat them almost three times a week! No sugar though just water, milk, butter, salt, pepper and some yummy hot sauce on top. I eat them for lunch. LOL.

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