“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.

Never Seen a Grit

Highfalutin: The theme of My Cousin Vinny is the clash of the familiar with the foreign. The New York Gambinis meet the Alabama Good-ole-boys in the Sac ‘o Suds and in the courtroom.

Regular American: My Cousin Vinny is hilarious. Like many classic comedies, this 1992 movie starring Joe Pesci and Marisa Tomei has quite a camp following, and you can see lots of the scenes on YouTube.



One of the funniest is when Vinny (Pesci) meets a grit in the Alabama version of the greasy spoon.




Grits Recipes

I remembered this scene when I ran across a copy of food article featuring grits from a now defunct magazine written by the food writer Lydia Itoi. In it, grits meet Spain and China in two recipes, Striped Grits – Polenta Torta and Nancy’s Chinese Grits. To understate it, they are interesting. Itoi says she likes grits better than polenta, but the recipe pits the two directly against each other. It’s a good brunch dish for a crowd.

The Torta

For the Polenta:

1 ear fresh corn on the cob

2 cups water

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup quick-cooking polenta

For the Grits

2 cups water

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup quick-cooking hominy grits

2 oz. brie cheese, rind removed and cut into small cubes

Butter a 9-inch loaf pan. Wrap the ear of corn in plastic wrap and microwave on high for 1-1/2 minutes. Remove the wrap, hold the ear of corn vertically on a cutting board, and slice the kernels off with a sharp knife. Measure out ½ cup kernels.

Bring the water and salt to a boil and gradually stir in the polenta. Lower the heat to medium and continue cooking, stirring constantly, for 10 minutes or until polenta is very thick and starts pulling away from the sides of the saucepan. Remove from the heat and stir in the ½ cup corn kernels. Spread this mixture evenly in the bottom of the loaf pan and set aside.

Bring the water and salt to a boil and gradually stir in the grits. Lower the heat to low, cover and continue cooking, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes or until grits are very thick and creamy. Remove from the heat and stir in the cheese until it melts and is thoroughly combined. Spread this mixture over the polenta. Cover with plastic wrap and chill until firm, at least 2 hours.

Before serving, slice the torta into thick slices and spread them on an ovenproof serving dish. Broil for 10-12 minutes, or until the top turns lightly golden. Serve warm. Makes 6 servings.

Nancy’s Chinese Grits

3 cups water

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon grated fresh ginger

¾ cup quick-cooking grits

¼ cup chopped ham, imitation crabmeat, or fish balls

¼ cup peas or sliced snow peas

3 tablespoons chopped green onions or chives

Ground white or black pepper to taste

In a medium saucepan, bring the water, salt and grated ginger to a boil. Gradually stir in the grits, ham (or crabmeat or fish balls) and peas and cook according to package instructions. Remove from heat and stir in green onions. Season to taste with pepper and serve hot. Serves 4.

Now, regarding highfalutin or hifalutin or highfaluten or hifaluten:

Mainstream dictionaries agree that it means absurdly pompous or bombastic in style, pretentious, but they disagree on origins. It is very American, however.

The American Heritage dicltionlarly of The English Language, fourth edition, 2000, gives a regional note: “H.L. Mencken, in his famous book The American Language, mentions highfalutin as an example of the many native U.S. words coined during the 19th-century period of vigorous growth. Although highfalutin is characteristic of American folk speech, it is not a true regionalism because it has always occurred in all regions of the country.”

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