Serendipitous Grits


Post by community member:

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.

Turn this…

…into this Cheese Grits Casserole.

Get the handy print page and save this to your recipe box here:
Cheese Grits Casserole.

Syrup and Biscuits blogs at Syrup and Biscuits.

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  1. MrsFuzz says:

    I love grits too. What a great story. Thank you for sharing your grits adventures with us!

  2. Debbie in PA says:

    Love the story, and I am wanting a bowl of grits right now! I think I have one of those nasty instant packages, which will just have to do for now!

  3. Syrup and Biscuits says:

    So glad you enjoyed the story!

    Go fix yourself a bowl of grits and enjoy them!

  4. lisabetholson says:

    You know just the other day after my DH was ill for about the 6th day and eating only crackers, soft cooked eggs and Sprite I wanted some cream of wheat which isn’t in my cupboards nor is it grits and I don’t go to the store when I want something and finding ANY grits in Oregon might be like pulling teeth, and now you post grits. I haven’t had any for YEARS and I mean YEARS. Dog gone it any way, I want some NOW bad and I have to wait til I can get to town and get me some.

  5. Louise says:

    I love grits too. I will have to check out the Dixie Lily brand and see if it is available in North Alabama too. Thanks for the post.

  6. AnnieB says:

    Thanks for the nice story!

    I am from Pennsylvania but I’ve come to love grits (even more than scrapple lol!). One of our favorite breakfasts is a big bowl of cheesy grits topped with a nice runny poached egg and some bacon.

  7. Astrid says:

    Sometimes it is a pain to be a foreigner, what are grits?

  8. Pete says:

    Had run out of grits, and just bought some! Yumm!! Unfortunatley, most often what is sold here is the instant stuff in the single serve pouches – the absolute most expensive way to buy them. Found some quick grits at the dollar store, in a small package. HURRAY!!!

    Several friends know to bring me a big package of grits whenever they travel this direction from the south! I can eat the instant grits just fine, but I really, really , really don’t want to deal with those little pouches! They don’t even taste the same!

  9. Syrup and Biscuits says:

    @lisabetholson: I hope you get some grits, soon! I wish I could send you some.
    @Louise: good luck on your grits quest! I hope you are successful finding Dixie Lily.
    @AnnieB: the way you describe grits is my all time favorite way to eat them. My husband prefers over easy eggs, I like mine scrambled. Now that’s good eats!
    @Larissa: grits is good!
    @Astrid: Bless your heart, Astrid. I just want to hug your neck. Grits are simply stone ground corn. They are popular in the South and frequently eaten as a breakfast food with eggs and bacon. Some savory grits dishes are also popular such as Cheese Grits Casserole and Shrimp and Grits.
    @Pete: I agree about the difference in flavor between the instant grits and quick cook. I hope you can get you some good grits, soon!

  10. Miss HomeEcs Daughter says:

    Found The Dixie Lily Grits on Amazon. Guess I will have to order some. Have to order my White ily Flour (twenty pounds at a time) off the internet also. West of the Mississippi and in Texas is not the best place to get these two items…thanks for the recipies, I’m off to order the grits.

  11. Miss HomeEcs Daughter says:

    Hmm, that would be White Lily Flour…lol

  12. Syrup and Biscuits says:

    @MissHomeEcsDaughter: never in my life did I think about looking on for Dixie Lily grits. Thank you for that tip. Maybe our quest for Dixie Lily all over the Southeaster US is over!

  13. rileysmom says:

    Good post, Syrup and Biscuits! I love grits, too! I like some grated cheese on mine, hubby wants them with fried eggs over grits. I agree that it’s hard to find grits once you go west of the Mississippi! Don’t ask for sweet tea, either….

  14. claudia says:

    As a native South Carolinian, I have never heard of Dixie Lily grits, but will look for them the next time we are home. I start my grits in cold water and have no trouble with lumps, but I am going to try your way. I can’t get yellow corn meal in Ohio, so we stock up on that when we are in SC, as well as Duke’s mayonnaise and Maurice’s barbecue sauce.

  15. JOJO says:

    We love our grits! I make them quite often, they are easy once you make them a time or two and are so versatile.
    I have never made polenta, but who ever said “Kiss my polenta” ? Grits are as southern as fried chicken and biscuits. We life in the north, and I am having a difficult time finding the old fashioned grits, every store carries mostly the quick cook kind.

  16. Syrup and Biscuits says:

    @rileysmom: Thanks for sharing the ways you enjoy grits. I love them all!
    @Claudia: I’ve never heard of starting the grits in cold water. That’s very interesting and thank you for sharing that. I’m with you when it comes to Duke’s mayonnaise!!
    @Jojo: I’m surprised you can find grits at all up north! I just don’t care for instant grits that much. I use quick cooking which has a 5 minute cook time. Those are just as good to me as the long cooking grits and I think most folks will be more apt to use them.

  17. Ewenique says:

    We love our grits! Can’t find good ones in our home town in Missouri so we order them from Falls Mills http://WWW.FALLSMILL.COM they are stone ground and so good! One other thing we do is cook them in half water and half cream…best thing you ever ate!

  18. BeverlyC says:

    Mmmmmm, I love grits too!

    I have a question….hubby & I always debate the “right” way to eat grits. I use loads of butter, salt & pepper. He insists that it’s loads of butter & sugar. Well… do you prefer them?

  19. Syrup and Biscuits says:

    @Ewenique: I’ve never tried the Falls Mill brand grits but it seems that I have used some of their baking products. So glad you have a source for good grits!
    @beverly: I prefer mine the same way as you. I think most mid-westerners who eat grits consider them cereal and will use milk and sugar. It’s all a matter of taste preference.

  20. Ruthmarie says:

    Whew, this blog posting snapped me into time travel to my childhood. Made me misty too! Although I’m California born and raised, my maternal grandma was Iowan and cooked a lovely, pudding-smooth pot of grits. It was our guilty pleasure when I was home sick (Mom didn’t care for ’em) … thick with soft-cooked eggs and a wicked float of butter. We’d even giggle when we committed table-manner heresy and LICKED the plates clean!

    I now woo my family with the occasional pot of grits, but my Michigander hubby will have none of the soft morning cereal … plainly there was lumpy pasty grits in HIS past! I’m betting the grits casserole might shift his resistance …. thank you!

  21. marymac says:

    Ok.. gotta tell my story now. I cooked grits 1 time about 51 years ago, and I bet if I was still cooking them they would still be gritty, lol. seems they just wouldn’t cook up. I had a goey gritty mess. Now, I love corn meal mush, hot with cold milk, and I thought grits would be the same, but it was too bland to my liking. Therefore I never cooked them again. I now have in my possession about 4 boxes of grits that were passed off to me, and I am thinking there must be a proper way to fix them, and I think if I like mush I should like grits, right? These are quick cook grits. I have already cooked one box for the chickens, and they loved them. What is the difference between corn meal and grits?

  22. bonita says:

    I’m surprised to hear that some folks have trouble finding grits. I wouldn’t expect to find Dixie Lily brand, but here in the Windy City, Quaker quick grits and Quaker instant grits are widely available. (Well, let’s say widely available in some neighborhoods.)
    Since Quaker is a nationally-distributed brand, it may be worth asking your local store to see if their Quaker distributer can add Quaker grits to their inventory. Not that I’m espousing Quaker, per se, but perhaps “dem grits is better than no grits.”

  23. Ewenique says:

    @Bonita, we have Quaker instant grits in Missouri but they don’t have the same flavor as stone ground grits, the consistency isn’t the same. Is there such a thing as being a “grit snob”?

  24. Syrup and Biscuits says:

    @Ruthmarie: I hope you have a successful launch bringing your husband into The Land of Grits with the casserole. You could even brown up a pound of ground sausage and throw in there. That might help with the “transition”. Let me know how things work out for you.
    @marymac:there are more similarities between corn meal and grits than differences. The big difference is the texture. Traditional grits are strictly made from hominy corn. I believe they are soaked to remove some of the hull. I can’t imagine what went wrong with your grits and the texture.
    @bonita: sometimes we do have “make do” with what we’ve got! That is so true. It is becoming easier to find grits outside of the South. Folks are finally catchin’ on! 🙂
    @Ewenique: you like what you like. Nothing snobby about that, atol!

  25. bonita says:

    @Ewenique, from the way you folks are waxing poetic about grits, I’d love the opportunity to become a grits snob!

  26. Syrup and Biscuits says:

    @bonita: come on in, Bonita. The water’s fine!

  27. Eliza J says:

    Love grits with maple syrup! Never had them growing up on the farm in WV…wasn’t sure what that white stuff was when getting my first meal at college (also in WV). Grits is one of the hot choices in the cafe at work (in FL) every morning. Your stocking up on grits when you can find them reminds me of my son stocking up on Mr Pibb when visiting his Grandpa’s farm in WV and taking it back to NH!

  28. Pete says:

    Quaker grits are easy to find around here, just not in large packages. While Quaker may not make the best grits around, they are plenty good, and much better than no grits at all!

  29. Joyce says:

    First time we had grits was with fried eggs and catfish at a little place in North Fla. Yum!

  30. Syrup and Biscuits says:

    @ElizaJ: I’m in Florida, too! Thanks for sharing your grits story. May your son never run out of Mr. Pibb! 🙂
    @Pete: I’m with you on that one. We’ve used Quaker when we couldn’t find Dixie Lily.
    @Joyce: Grits is good!

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