I can hear it now from our readers outside of the South. “Grits? What exactly are grits? They look like colorless mush – what’s the big deal? To which I reply, you haven’t had good grits. With butter, or even better, with cheese. And if you want to go for the gold, with shrimp. As my mama never said, “Hush my mouth.”
Grits are nothing more than coarsely ground corn. If you ground it any further, you’d have cornmeal. If you like polenta, you’ll be happy to know that grits are a first cousin. They’re white because they don’t use the whole kernel of corn, just the hulled kernels. Quaker makes an instant grits product which really isn’t too bad. (Don’t tell this to the purists, but sometimes you just don’t have the time to make the real thing.)
It’ll come as no surprise that 80 percent of alll grits are consumed in the South, the area between Virginia and Texas being called the “grits belt.” Grits are the official processed food of the state of Georgia. In fact, Georgia and South Carolina are engaged in a friendly dispute about which is more committed to grits.
The town of St. George, S.C. calls itself the “official” Grits Capitol (sic) of the World, certified by no less an authority than the Piggly Wiggly as eating more grits than any other town. Next April 16-18, the town will host its 25th Annual World Grits Festival. Don’t tell that to the good folks of Warwick, Georgia, however. It proclaims itself the Grits Capital of the World, and it even knows how to spell “capital.” It’s going to hold its National Grits Festival on April 10 next year. So those who are truly dedicated could go to the competing festivals on back-to-back weeks and make their own determination about who’s top grit.
If all this sounds corny to you…that’s because it is.