“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.

From First to Hifalutin

 

It has finally happened. The South’s sometimes famous, sometimes notorious, always dependable, comfort food has gone upscale. I suppose it was bound to happen. After all, grits probably saved our country.

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Glorious Grits, a new book by Susan McEwen McIntosh and presented by Southern Living, raises our comfort food to a new level for a new generation, with the gorgeous and scrumptious recipes from enlightened and creative American chefs. 

It took more than 200 years to go from Indian Pudding to Asparagus-Grits Strata, Huevos Rancheros on Cilantro-Grits Cakes, French Onion Soup with Gruyère Grits Croutons, Blueberry Muffins with Streusel Topping (made with blue cornmeal), Burgundy Beef Stew with Cornmeal-Thyme Dumplings, Chutney Salmon with Almond-Raisin Grits, Anson Mills’ Black Truffle Grits, and many more. 

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above, Asparagus-Grits Strata

But here we are. Just in time for Thanksgiving.

 

First Food

You may recall from Spittin’ Grits’ May 4 post, 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. Americans are nothing if not ingenious, so with corn in hand, could meal, hominy, and grits be far behind?

[225pxT_Jefferson_by_Charles_Willson_[2].jpg]The July 2 post reminded readers that Thomas Jefferson served grits, according to Craig Claiborne. Even before that, however, only twenty years after the American Revolution, a culinary cultural event took place in 1796, when a young orphan lady named Amelia Simmons published a cookbook, America’s first one.

 

AmericanCookery-MSUAMERICAN COOKERY or the Art of Dressing Viands, Fish, Poultry and Vegetables, and the Best Modes of Making Pastes, Puffs, Pies, Tarts, Puddings, Custards, and Preserves, and all Kinds of Cakes from the Imperial Plumb to Plain Cake Adapted to the Country and All Grades of Life – the first cookbook aimed democratically at the masses and slanted towards women; it is the first cookbook to show corn meal as a primary ingredient.  It includes the first recipes for Indian Slapjacks and Johnny Cake, as well as “A Nice Indian Pudding,” all of which became staples in the following centuries.

 Uptown Food

McInstosh, born and raised in the South, a registered dietitian and author of Southern Living magazine’s Cooking Light Cookbook, traveled and interviewed far and wide to bring these glorious grits, meal, and polenta recipes together. As a bonus, she also reawakens awareness for using real, stone-ground grits. Glorious Grits includes a grits trail map and addresses for gristmills from where stone-ground meal, grits and polenta may be ordered, as well as tips for cooking stone-ground grits.

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above,  Lime –Marinated Shrimp with Bean and Mango Salsa over Grilled Grits Cakes

Book chapters run the culinary gamut from a good old bowl of grits, quick polenta, and cornbread to breakfast, appetizers, breads, main courses, and desserts. Yes, desserts, including Pecan Grits Pie, Cornbread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce, and Coconut-Crusted Polenta Cakes with Triple Berry Sauce.

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above, appetizer Grits Bruschetta with Tomato Salsa

below, Cornmeal Focaccia with Rosemary

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My neighbor and friend Nancy is going to Chicago for Thanksgiving and wants to take a Southern dish. I’m going to suggest the Grits Bruschetta with Tomato Salsa as an appetizer, the Cornmeal Focaccia with Rosemary, Lime-Marinated Shrimp with Bean and Mango Salsa over Grilled Grits Cakes, and the Pecan Grits Pie (shown below).

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Bon appétit, grits!

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