It’s not at all uncommon to have regional food favorites. Sometimes those favorites are only appreciated by folks in a particular region. Pennsylvanians favor scrapple, Oregonians get faint and dizzy listening to a description of scrapple . Kansans have a fondness for gravy on their french fries, Mississippians eat gravy on their biscuits. Crawfish are considered tasty by folks all along the Gulf Coast, North Dakotans would just as soon eat grasshoppers. A Southern favorite that has been the butt of many jokes and draws sneers and jeers from many people is grits.
I have long since been of the opinion that grits have a public relations problem. They are essentially the same food as polenta. People talk fondly of polenta and relate stories of wonderful meals that included polenta. You just don’t hear of folks disrespecting polenta as you do grits. They long for a good plate of polenta cakes, but mention grits cakes and those noses just start turning up. I admit that grits is not a cool sexy sounding name. But, that’s the name. And it’s not changing. That’s okay by me. I love grits. My family love grits. And we are not alone. In fact, you give us a choice between grits and polenta, we are going straight for the grits. We might ask for seconds…..and thirds.
My first recollection of someone cooking a special food just for me involved grits and my Granny. When I was 6 years old, I had my tonsils removed. My recovery was a bit protracted because they used ether as an anesthetic agent back then and that stuff would almost kill you. My Granny asked if she could bring me to her house and take care of me so my mother could attend to my two younger sisters, aged 3 and 1. She told Mama she thought I would be able to eat “soupy eggs and grits”. I don’t remember whether I could eat the “soupy eggs and grits” or not. My memory isn’t of the taste of the dish, but rather the love that was served up in that dish. Being sick is one the times that you need special attention and I got a lot of it. The bowl of “soupy eggs and grits” let me know that taking care of me and helping me get better was first and foremost on the mind of my Granny. Fifty years later, that memory is still vivid in my mind. It’s not one of those memories where the details are blurred and you wish you could piece it together just one more time. This memory is indelible and was the first installment in my folder of precious food memories. I open that folder a lot these days. Hopefully, I can retrieve the contents in its entirety and get them down on paper…..or my computer…..before they become irretrievable.
My husband and I have a favorite brand of grits–Dixie Lily. We like them because we think they cook up creamier. They are becoming elusive these days. Our grocery store has stopped carrying them so we go on hunts for Dixie Lily grits. When, and if, we do find them, we clean out the shelves. Frequently, we run slap out of them and have to buy another brand. We visited Mobile, our hometown, this past week to attend a family wedding. As per our usual routine while visiting any Southern city, we went grits shopping–Dixie Lily grits shopping. We have literally shopped for Dixie Lily grits all over the Southeastern United States. Jimmie Lowe’s Fruit Stand is an indoor produce stand, just outside Mobile, that has lots of good local produce as well as other regional food items. We hit up Jimmie Lowe’s first on our grits quest in Mobile Country, Alabama. We needed cornmeal, too, and we knew Jimmy Lowe’s would have some good cornmeal for us. We found several Dixie Lily products there but not the kind of grits we like. So, we bought our cornmeal from Jimmy Lowe’s and went across the street to Winn Dixie to continue the grits quest. Lo and behold! Winn Dixie had our Dixie Lily grits! In usual fashion, we cleaned out the shelf and strutted our way to the checkout counter with our stash.
Dixie Lily White Grits
As we approached the checkout counter grinning like ‘possums’, a store employee said, “How y’all doin’ today? Now, I know y’all do not want to stand in that line all day. You come on over here and I’ll open up a new line for you. Y’all got stuff to do today. I can tell.” Such gracious hospitality. That’s one of the things I love the most about the South. This woman didn’t know us from Adam’s housecat and she treated us like we were family. It’s so nice to be home again. Mobile has retained its Southern personality. I miss a lot of old South charm living in Central Florida. For a moment, I’m sad. Sad that I live in a place where I’m not surrounded by Southern culture and charm. But life goes on. And I remember that I’m taking some goodness back home with me. We just paid for our four bags of Dixie Lily grits. As we are in the car driving away from the grocery store, I happen to look at the back of the Dixie Lily bag in the place that gives you their location. As many bags of these grits we have bought and as many places throughout the South where we have hunted these grits, imagine my downright astonishment when I read the location as: 100 Jacintoport Blvd., Saraland, AL 35571. Saraland is in Mobile County, Alabama. Just up the street from the place I call home, Mobile, AL. An accidental desired discovery. It was just simply meant to be.
Y’all come see us.
How to make Grits:
A good cheese grits casserole starts with really good grits. Here’s the cast of characters: pot, water, WHISK, grits, salt.
Mr. WHISK is the star of the show. He keeps your grits from being lumpy.
Sorry for the poor quality of this next shot. It’s live action plus the steam kept fogging up the camera lens. This is real cookin’. The ratio is 4 parts water to one part grits. Pour quick grits into boiling salted water constantly whisking until the grits are a little thinner than you want them to be. This will only take about a minute.
Once they are of a thin consistency, remove them from the heat, cover them and let them sit for an additional five minutes to complete the cooking process. This will ensure they cook properly without scorching.
This is your reward. A perfect bowl of creamy grits. Add butter to the whole pan or to each serving. Serve piping hot.
…into this Cheese Grits Casserole.
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