Sunday, 13 January 2008

Grits-The Soul of Southern America

They were immortalised in American 70s sitcom, Alice, when a sassy waitress called Flo told someone in every episode to “Kiss My Grits.” Before Flo, no one really had ever heard of grits outside of the grits belt that stretches from Louisiana to the Carolinas. Even still, it remains so much a Southern tradition that many outsiders continue to ask, “What is a grit?”- to which any self-respecting Southerner replies, “There ain’t no such thing as A grit!”

Grits are stone-ground corn and, yes, always plural because they’re like sand. Added to boiling water, the textural result is a white, gritty and pasty substance comparable to porridge. Places like Timm’s Mill in Pendleton, South Carolina grind their corn kernels using a heavy stone that produces tiny granules of cornmeal and larger granules of glorious grits.

Grits have long been used as an inexpensive and simple breakfast staple best served with butter, salt and pepper. However in recent years, the South’s best kept secret has made its way to the kitchens of reputable chefs all over the States who have turned something palatable only to those who were brought up on it into a gourmet dish that is all dressed up and undeniably delicious to even the most stubborn of yankees.

Chef Steve Kish of 82 Queen in Charleston, South Carolina does my favourite version of Charleston’s most popular dish-shrimp and grits. Replacing water with heavy cream and lots of butter, they become more creamy (and dreamy) than gritty and it’s obvious why grits have also been dubbed as Georgia ice cream. Kish’s grits are to die for even before they’re topped with melted cheddar, crumbled applewood-smoked bacon and scallions. Finally, prawns bathed in a sweet, bourbon barbecue sauce will make you lick your lips and slap your mama for not thinkin’ of it first.

A self-respecting Southerner myself, I’ve just returned from there with a big ole bag of grits in tow that are a sure cure for homesickness. And even though mama taught me better, if anyone wants to me to share them...well they can kiss my grits, y’all!

As seen in Bite Magazine

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