Do you like grits? Lots of people don’t, but I think that if they’d given the food a fancier name people would be more predisposed to like it. “Grits” doesn’t sound very appetizing, but tastewise I think they are right up there next to manna from heaven.
I had never even heard of grits until I was about 15, when a girl whose family was from the south moved down the street from us. They had grits for breakfast, as we would eat cream of wheat, and then they had grits for dinner in place of potatoes. But the word sounded horrible and I was relieved that I was never asked to stay for dinner. I didn’t know exactly what they were, and I really wasn’t interested in finding out.
Time passed and I never came face to face with grits. But I’m telling you, you can’t go a-visiting people who live in the south and not get up close and personal with them. In the late 70s Jerry and I went to Baton Rouge to visit some of his distant relatives. By that time my taste had broadened somewhat and I was looking for new taste experiences. Beryl, our second cousin, served them at dinner in place of mashed potatoes. I didn’t even know how to eat them, so I watched what she and her husband did, and I did likewise. The grits were mounded on the plate, slathered with butter, and then salt and peppered within an inch of their lives. Oh Man! Talk about delicious!
Right then and there I became a grits fanatic. Upon returning home I scoured the stores for boxes of grits. They were not easy to find in Southern California but finally next to the corn meal I discovered Albers grits. Even though Jerry didn’t particularly like them, I became the grits queen of the house, humoring myself with them quite often.
The next time I had grits was when Jerry and I drove up to Inglewood to a soul food restaurant, Charlie’s M&M, which had opened to rave reviews by the LA Times. I can remember to this day what I ordered: eggs over easy, homemade hot sausage patties, strong hot coffee and grits. But these grits were runny, almost like Cream of Wheat. I was shocked to see them fixed like that – until I tasted them. They were as good thin and gruelly as they were thick and stiff. Nothing else was needed on the grits there – they were like ambrosia just the way they were served. For a long time I periodically got my grit fix at Charlie’s M&M. After we came back from Istanbul we learned that Charlie’s M&M had closed, much to our dismay.
When my cousin moved to North Carolina, she phoned me one day and said I had to come see her because she had found a restaurant that served shrimp and grits and that the taste was so wonderful it would justify that long plane flight. I thought she was exaggerating. But she wasn’t. I couldn’t imagine shrimp and grits. I have since learned there are a thousand ways to prepare this dish, but not one recipe seemed to include all the ingredients in that most luscious of offerings given to us in that little shoreline café not too far from Beaufort.
Like everything else that tastes wonderful, grits are not good for the waistline. So I don’t eat them the way I would like to (slathered with butter), or as often as I would like to (daily). However, if you want to make me happy, just offer me southern grits, any style, any time, and you’ll be my friend for life.