Laud have mercy! I vacillate on favorite foods. Not much really, I just enjoy eating. If I were on death row facing my “last meal” my decision would come down to either Dutch Fork barbeque or low country shrimp and grits. I hope I never have to find out which I would choose but with the politics of today…who knows? If my worst fear were to come to pass today, it would be shrimp and grits.
I have discovered that Yankees have the wrong idea about grits. My former teaching chum Frankie, who is from Ohio I think, says, “OOOOH! Grits are too bland. I would much rather eat polenta.” UUUH, isn’t polenta boiled cornmeal? Grits are boiled ground corn…smaller grains than cornmeal but the source is the same. Yankees need to realize that grits to a cook are what a blank canvas is to an artist. If you have had bad grits, it ain’t the grits’ fault any more than a bad painting is about the canvas. It takes a master’s touch.
I have eaten grits all my life…as a kid usually for breakfast swimming in fresh churned butter and a hunk of hoop cheese melting in it. My grandmother tried to substitute oatmeal or milk toast on occasion but I was having none of it. As I got older I realized grits made a wonderful “canvas” for many meals. I have grilled it as a cake and served it with a gravy alongside chicken, pork, beef or fish. I have even made it as a dessert in the form of grits pie that is as good as any egg custard. I HAVE NEVER SERVED IT JUST AS GRITS. Grits must have butter and cheese. You may take your pick as to which kind of cheese. I also like a little chives, green onion tops or just plain old onion chopped up in it. BE CLEAR! I am not talking about grits that come in a package and are to be cooked in a microwave.
I discovered shrimp and grits, first in Charleston and later in Georgetown, some thirty years ago. Shrimp was a luxury at my home during my childhood and teenage years and I just didn’t know that heaven could come in a big bowl. This delicacy is an orchestration of stone-ground grits bathed in a broth, fluffy with heavy cream or creamed cheese, drowning in a dark roux gravy blessed with Tasso ham or Andouille sausage featuring chubby pink shrimp topped with chopped chives. “Heaven! I’m in Heaven!”
In 1999 my baseball team made the trip to Georgetown and were lucky enough to win the state championship. When I got home I found a Styrofoam container sitting on my kitchen bar with a congratulatory note from my wife. Inside was a double portion of shrimp and grits. I couldn’t begin to fathom a better way to celebrate.
I truly believe we could solve the world’s problems if we could get all of the world leaders to sit down with my Southern trifecta of shrimp and grits, sweet Southern tea and Jack Daniels. Yeah, you could make it a duo by adding the Jack to the tea with a bit of mint for garnish. If you feel the need for a salad, be my guest but I don’t believe that one is demanded. I would wait until after the meal and serve the Jack Daniels with a fine cigar. I’m sure we would be able to work out our world-wide differences…just don’t tell our Muslim brothers there is ham or sausage in it. They will enjoy it much better without knowing.