THE NITTY GRITTY FROM THE LEE BROS. SOUTHERN COOKBOOK:
“Like scrapple or Vegemite, the word grits doesn’t sound tasty. And for that reason alone, grits run a close second to lard as the longest-running joke about southern food, perceived by the uninitiated to be a curiosity rather than what they are: a pillar of southern cooking. In fact, you could say that rice is the grits of China.
Grits begin as hard, dried corn kernels, which are then stripped from the cob, shattered in a grain mill, and sifted to separate the powdery cornmeal from the larger fragments, called grits. At this stage they should be no more of a conceptual challenge than starches like rice, pasta or couscous. All are prepared by simmering in a hot liquid (water or broth), which softens them and subtly gives flavor. They also take flavor from ingredients you might stir into them — in the case of grits, cheeses of all kinds, meats, herbs or mushrooms are favored admixtures. You name it, grits will go with it, and we would wager that, in the South, corn is consumed more often as grits than it is either fresh or frozen. We eat a soft mound of grits with eggs and bacon, with greens, with duck and even with fish for a hearty breakfast (a custom in the fishcentric Carolina low country). Like mashed potatoes, grits love gravies and juices, so they form a fantastic base on the plate beneath a variety of savory fish or meat dishes.
Grits can be white or yellow, depending on the color of the corn they’re made from, and their flavor can vary slightly because of the variety of corn and environmental factors such as soil composition and weather. But the single most important factor in making great tasting grits is the way that they are ground. Grits ground between cool stones, as opposed to those processed with warmer steel rollers in a high-speed commercial mill, are superior, more intense and fuller-bodied in both flavor and texture, because they retain all the heat-sensitive corn oils contained in the corn kernel. Commercial mills deliberately remove the oil-rich heart of the corn kernel so grits won’t turn rancid on the grocery store shelf. Like many whole-grain meals and flours, stone-ground grits are truly perishable…. Store them in a sealed bag or container in the refrigerator or freezer…. If you can‘t find stone-ground grits at stores in your area and don‘t have the patience to order them by mail, use the highest-quality grits that commercial millers make, which are always labeled ‘old-fashioned‘. They will take slightly less time to cook than stone-ground, and we recommend adding a teaspoon of white refined sugar for every cup of dry grits to enhance their flavor. The only grits we absolutely discourage using in any of our recipes are the ones labeled instant.” Matt and Ted Lee
MORE NITTY GRITTY FROM CRAIG CLAIBORNE’S SOUTHERN COOKING:
GRITS ARE (OR IS) GOOD
As a child of the South (and one who has not infrequently been described as having cornmeal in his mouth), I feel notably secure in stating that grits, that celebrated Southern cereal, constitutes a plural noun. I staunchly defend this opinion, but I do feel moved to give the opposition a moment of self-defense.
A fellow Mississippian, who shall go nameless, has written to me as follows:“I wonder whether you have quietly fallen victim of a Yankee malaise, one that causes even editors of dictionaries, alas, to refer to grits as a plural noun. Never mind what these Yankee dictionaries say, come back home where grits is IT, not them. Do Yankees refer to those oatmeal? Does one eat one grit or many? Isn’t it supposed, at least by tradition, to be a singularly singular noun? Please say it’s so.
I remember, growing up on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, laughing with smirking pleasure over Yankee’s references to grits as ‘them’ and ‘those’. I do not recall whether any of them referred to the finer ground cousin of grits, cornmeal, as ‘them’ or ‘those’ cornmeal, but maybe I was not listening.
Until I hear better, I am going to assume that you remain well, and the dictionary usage for grits was insinuated (or were insinuated) into your otherwise impeccable article by some scurrilous (Yankee) copy editor.
P.S. Now, repeat after me: ‘I like grits. It is good. I eat it (not them) whenever possible.” Craig Claiborne