“You are not going out with that boy unless his parents are driving and that's that. I'm not just Spitting Grits here, young lady!”

. . . My father, John Thomas Cravey, USAF, to me in 1956.

The Grits Grammar War in Three Parts Hominy – Part I

Is they or are they? Grits, I mean.

The Grits Grammar War (see the May 4 post “First Food for First Family”) can polarize language pundits and mavens into two extreme camps with no grey area in between: Grits is a singular noun, like news, which is a something made up of a bunch of pieces, ends in s, but acts as one something. So, “News is a staple of the American information junkie.”

And, “Grits is a breakfast staple in the South.” Grits just looks plural. That’s merely perception.

“Hell no,” says the other extreme. We’re dealing with reality, not perception. The word grits is a plural noun. You can plainly see that: it ends in s because grits are made up of lots of pieces. It’s like measles and scissors, one thing ending in s that is composed of more than one. You cain’t have just one – a grit, a measle, or a scissor. Plural, plain and simple.

By the way, “cain’t” is a very Southern way of saying “can’t.” Northerners will probably get used to that about the time they get used to grits.

This Grammar War was likely ignited unknowingly when FLOTUS Michelle Obama let the cornmeal out of the bag during a kitchen tour before a state dinner the same night as the 2009 Oscars. She told one of the culinary students that the White House chef cooked up some “mean waffles and grits.” Show time for grits.

Pre-emptive Poles

Those grits mavens at the is pole and at the are pole say, “You’re either with us or against us.” That attitude is what issue-polarizing is made of. So, maybe Rush Limbaugh is behind revitalizing the Grits Grammar War. By the looks of him, he’s also trying to corner the grits market. Truth outs.

Creating polarity on the grits issue could be an attempt to discredit and dishonor the Obama’s good name; it is not just a little more subtle that saying, “I hope he fails!”  Limbaugh could also be getting revenge for the Dems calling him the de facto head of the GOP, probably an attempt to make an end-run around any credible leader.

The irony, of course, is that this Grits Grammar War raged for a while in The New York Times, with food guru Craig Claiborne at the center. I suppose this fact could indicate a left-wing conspiracy.

So maybe James Carville is stirring things up, suggesting that laughing at GRITS is tantamount to assaulting the Southern Way of Life. This way, Southerners by the droves would run to the Democratic Party.

More on this conflict in the next Grits Grammar War post.

Meanwhile, what the heck is/are grits?

Lye 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.

“Hulled” is the key word in how to deal with hominy. Southerners of a certain age are aware of what might be considered a disgusting method for hulling hominy – with Red Devil lye. (Ooops, bad news, lyers


Craig Claiborne, originally from Mississippi, knew about whole hominy kernels long before he became one of the Kings of Culinary America and food editor for The New York Times, as detailed in a June 23, 1982 New York Times piece.

I have an old-fashioned recipe for the preparation of whole hominy, sometimes referred to as lye hominy. It is attributed to the cookbook of Mrs. J.W.T. Faulkner, grandmother of William Faulkner. It begins, “Take 2 or 3 quarts of large (kernel) dried corn and put it in a large iron pot with a pint of strong lye.” You boil it “all day” until the “eye” comes off. That is a perfectly valid recipe; many others call for soaking the dried corn in a liquid containing wood ash; in “The Joy of Cooking” Irma Rombauer explains the wood ash as an attempt to give hominy calcium value.


Claiborne wanted to convince Northerners that whole hominy and grits are delectable and worth looking into. “In that they all derive from the same base - dried kernels of corn, whole or ground - it is scarcely surprising that they team notably well with grated cheese and chilies,” he wrote.

Here’s Claiborne’s cheese and chilies recipe, which he suggests pairs with his grillades very well.

Craig Claiborne’s Cheese Grits Casserole

2-½ cups water

½ cup grits, preferably stone-ground.

Salt to taste

2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese

½ teaspoon garlic, minced fine

3 tablespoons (more or less to taste) jalapeno pepper, chopped fine

4 eggs, lightly beaten

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce.

1. Bring water to boil in saucepan and gradually add grits, stirring. Add salt to taste. Cover and cook about 25 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees.

3. 3. Add 1-3/4 cups of cheese to the grits and stir. Add garlic, pepper, eggs and Worcestershire. Blend well.

4. Pour mixture into a two-quart casserole and sprinkle top with remaining one-quarter cup of cheese. Place in oven and bake 25 minutes.

In addition to his great grits recipes, he took a firm stand on the grits grammatical correctness issue. We will dissect this correctness in posts to come.

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