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All About Grits!
by Marshall Dean

I confess I am a VSC (Very Senior Citizen) and a displaced Yankee. I also admit I am somewhat "set in my ways." However, one of my goals for the new year is to become "unset in my ways." I have vowed to examine my dislikes and try to turn them into likes. I realize that is easier and quicker said than done!

This includes foods I don't particularly like. That includes grits. Now, before you tar and feather and ride me on a rail back to Yankee-land, let me explain this dislike. It stems from the first time I was served grits. I didn't order them, of course, and they were totally unexpected when they turned up on my breakfast plate. I stared at them. They looked like a glutinous, grainy, glob of library paste. I took one tentative nibble and decided they were not "tolerable" - an expression I inherited from my opinionated grandfather.

However, in my quest to re-examine my dislikes, I recently tried them again. At one of my frequent suppertime breakfasts at the local Huddle House, I changed my habit pattern. I ordered my usual cheese omelet but I didn't say, "Hold the grits - give me the hash browns." So I got grits, naturally. And this time they looked better - not like an unknown pudding-like substance. I took a large forkful and found them more than "tolerable." They tasted good!

This was a new experience, and when I experience anything new I want to know more about it. So I did some grits research. My dog-eared dictionary defined grits as a plural noun, "Sometimes, especially in the South, used as a singular noun." That's a wishy-washy definition if I ever read one.

However, in a back issue of the Smithsonian magazine, I found an author, Tim Warren, who is definitely pro-grits. He writes, "Today, grits can be used both as a singular or plural noun. In other words, 'grits are' and 'grits is' are both acceptable." I admire and trust anyone who writes for the Smithsonian, so I buy Warren's definition.

Warren's excellent article contains a large portion of interesting facts about grits. It says that grits have historical significance. The Powhatan Indians of Tidewater Virginia introduced the earliest settlers to a hot and filling porridge made from cracked grains of maize. Corn became firmly entrenched in Southern cookery long before the Civil War. However, it was during the Reconstruction period that corn became the main staple of the South. As Warren expresses it, "It was the economic deprivation during Reconstruction that brought grits to the forefront of Southern cuisine and entrenched them firmly in the belly of Southern culture. They ate corn on the cob, hush puppies, corn bread – and they ate more grits."


Marshall Dean is the author of a weekly column, "Rambling Prose," which is published in the Wetumpka, Alabama, Weekend. The column is written “from the sunny side of the street.”

He is also a frequent contributor to several Web sites including Vocabula Review.
E-mail Dean at yoe43K

And read more of his stories at USADEEPSOUTH!
Once a Yankee, Always a Yankee
Kudzu ~ The Alien Invader
Barefoot, Red-faced in the Cornfield
Fireflies or Lightning Bugs?


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