Friday, October 26, 2007

After the Hee Haw Truck Stop Recipes, grits surely represent the South's finest contribution to American cuisine. Shockingly, however, some Northern folk would wrestle an alligator than try a bowl of grits or another Southern dish.

Once I worked up the nerve to offer my sister a bowl of my famous (around here, anyway) cheddar cheese grits. "Grits?" she scowled. "I'm not from the South!" was her indignant reply. You would have thought I was trying to poison her or something. Sure, I could have argued that grits are actually made from corn, a grain that typically is grown NORTH of the Mason-Dixon Line, but I didn't bother.

Another time, some college friends told of their drive back to Chicago from their spring break road-trip to Florida. Weary from driving and in need of repast, this group of intrepid noshers stopped at a Georgia diner to order eggs for breakfast. Their waitress cheerily chirped, "Would y'all like some grits with that?" To which an ordinarily polite New Yorker smirked, "Grits??? Do you have any POTATOES?"
I don't think the waitress conked him on the side of his head with a cast-iron skillet, but she surely should have. Teach that damn Yankee some manners, I say.

So how did I, a hardly well-traveled Fresser, acquire my taste for grits? My chum Puddin' Buns always drilled into me that when you travel to another part of the country or world, you eat what the residents eat. Try it--maybe you'll find something new. So when we visited his cousin at Washington University in St. Louis, we dropped in at a Waffle House and decided to try some grits with our eggs.

Instantly we were smitten. Here was an alternative to the hash brown hegemony so common in Yankee slop-houses, and really: shouldn't we just save the potatoes for dinner? Given that we were new to Southern cooking, Puddin' Buns and I topped our grits with (shudder) maple syrup--a capital offense in Mississippi, I later learned--but I have since mended my ways and stick to sharp cheddar and a splash of cayenne pepper sauce atop my bowl o' Southern heaven.

I can just imagine the reactions some of y'all have endured when trying to introduce the novitiate to the glory that is Southern cooking. So sit down with some cornbread and tell us your stories.



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