Baltimore Sun

True grits

In this week's Free Market Friday post, Robert of Cross Keys takes up that age-old question that nags many a Baltimorean: are we Southerners or Yankees? RoCK's grits supply suggests the former. But his grits consumption, not so much. Here's RoCK. LV

I try and pass myself off as a Southerner. While I have some of the attributes, ranging from a weakness for bourbon and country ham to a crazy, great-great-great-grandfather who spent the first month of the Civil War in the Tennessee Calvary and the next four years in northern POW camps, one thing marks me as a Yankee: I didn't grow up with grits.


As a kid, I thought grits were either guys with jean jackets and feathered mullets who listened to Def Leppard and drove Camaros, or some part of Flo's anatomy that Mel had to kiss. Later on in my childhood, during a trip to South Carolina, I saw grits on the menu for the first time. I asked my mom if I could try them. She said I wouldn't like them, but I insisted. She was right. I was served a bowl of soupy mush that had a flavor somewhere between bad and bland.  

Many years would pass before I tried grits again, including the years that I spent living in the South attending college at Hampden-Sydney, which culturally was so Southern that it made Ole Miss feel like UMass. It was my wife, who is nonetheless from Chicago and whose ancestors were in Ukrainian shtetls at the time of the unpleasantries in the South, who got me to try grits again.  What I didn't know as a kid was that grits, like most everything, are better with cheese.  

Now I like grits, but I'm not sure I would say that I love them. I seem to buy a lot of grits. I just never actually get around to cooking them.

Last week, as part of my ongoing effort to act Southern, I was at Stratford Hall, the birthplace of Robert E. Lee. There is a mill on the grounds of the plantation, and you can buy grits produced there at the gift shop. Well, of course I needed to buy a bag of grits from the Lee house -- even though I knew I had several bags of grits back home, as well many similar products like spoon bread and dried corn.  

While I was standing there with the bag of grits in my hand, the wife was looking at grit cookbooks. This seemed like a good complementary purchase. My increasing grit supply was overwhelming my grit recipes, which really only consists of cheesy grits and cheesy grit cakes.

Unfortunately, the wife put down the grit cookbook and instead opted to pick up a book on decorative napkin folding. I guess if we ever entertain, our guests can be seated at a table with a napkin in the shape of a boat and big bowl of cheesy grits.
For more information and photos on RoCK's trip to Stratford Hall and the Northern Neck of Virginia, check out his wife's travel write-up.

Photo courtesy of RoCK