Grits is ascending. No, grits are ascending. After a long hibernation, the Grits Grammar War could be on again, thanks to FLOTUS (First Lady of the United States) Michelle Obama, who let the cornmeal out of the bag during a kitchen tour before a state dinner the same night as the 2009 Oscars (http://www.c-spanarchives.org/library/includes/templates/library/flash_popup.php?pID=284232-3&clipStart=&clipStop=).
When one of the culinary students asked her what were some of her favorites from the White House chefs so far, she said she has liked everything made in the White House kitchen. The chefs have come up “with some mean waffles and grits that have become a regular staple for some of us,” she answered. Her emphasis on “some of us” suggests it’s POTUS who is the grits eater.
Whoever it is, the lights are on grits once again. Is/are grits singular or plural? This is the meat of the Grits Grammar War.
It’s been a cold winter for grits in the White House. It was Jimmy Carter who brought grits into the media’s sun. But as longtime New York Times food guru Craig Claiborne reminded us (June 23, 1976; for purchasing at $3.95), Thomas Jefferson MUST have eaten whole hominy and grits, as well as cornbread made in a black skillet, as part of the Southern staples from his kitchen.
Myrecipes.com offers a gorgeous Carter-era grits recipe (http://www.myrecipes.com/recipes/gallery/0,28548,1878766_1842974,00.html), adding, “Whether a visitor hailed from south Alabama or the South of France, they were often treated to a heaping bowl of grits, baked with cheese, during trips to Carter's White House during the breakfast hour. Serve the morning favorite for dinner, topped with country ham and wild mushrooms.”
For the specific recipe: http://find.myrecipes.com/recipes/recipefinder.dyn?action=displayRecipe&recipe_id=522146.
First Food First
President Barak Obama has spent the greater part of his first 100 Days in office repeating one theme over and over: We must all take responsibility.
I am going to do my part by attempting to re-educate the American public – without taking ANY of the Stimulus Package or TARP money – about one of America’s First Foods, grits. In future Spittin’ Grits posts, I will offer the most interesting grits and hominy recipes I can dig up.
America probably owes its historical existence to Capt. John Smith, who knew enough about wilderness survival to be saved by Pocahontas and then to save that original handful of people who settled in Jamestown. In the fall of 1608, only 45 people of the original 144 who set sail for Virginia were alive. By the following spring and summer 1609, everyone would likely have been dead if Smith had not bargained with the native Indians for corn. Much of this bargaining took place on the Chickahominy River with the Chickahominy, which translates “the coarse ground corn people” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chickahominy_(tribe).)
Americans are nothing if not ingenious, so with corn in hand, could meal, hominy, and grits be far behind? Future posts will untangle the complex world of hominy and grits.
Cornmeal is ground corn; hominy is (are?) dried, hulled corn kernels; grits is (are?) finely ground hominy. You have to boil grits in water to make a kind of porridge; you used to be able to buy #2 cans of hominy, but I don’t know if you still can. I will find out my next trip to Piggly Wiggly.
Southern storyteller, writer, and photographer Kathryn Tucker Windham explains a rather weird, if not disgusting to modern pallets, hominy recipe in her 1967 cookbook Treasured Alabama Recipes (http://www.amazon.com/Treasured-Alabama-Recipes-Kathryn-Windham/dp/0873970098):
One of the oldtime foods seldom prepared at home any more is lye hominy made with nut flavored kernels of tender corn. It is available in cans at grocery stores, but somehow the “boughten” variety lacks the rich flavor of the lye hominy made at home. . . .
First, she says, you have to have this big iron pot for boiling. . . .
Well, never mind. I’m not doing that and you probably won’t either, because she is talking about real lye. She offers a recipe for Dressed Up Lye Hominy Casserole using bacon, mushroom soup, cream, butter, and almonds. Eat your heart out, Paula Dean!
If this is a must-have for anyone, post a comment and let me know. Craig Claiborne grits recipes will follow in future posts, as will the status of the Grits Grammar War. Stay tuned.