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What Is It About Grits?
by Edward V. Folkes, Jr.

It is indeed a fact that those born in the South are going to be exposed to some mighty fine eating--grits, fried chicken, fried okra, sweet potatoes, redeye gravy and pecan pie. Add to that the array of sweet pickles, vegetable casseroles, breads, rolls and, yes, the infamous buttermilk biscuit. (Let us have a moment of silence for the biscuit. I must say "amen" to that! Where would we be without it, friends?)

Then there are the various forms of barbecue, whether pork or beef or wet or dry or smoked or grilled or just put on the hibachi and "hit twice with that sauce, Bobby Joe."

How about those chilled Jell-O salads that gently reflect fruits or vegetables shimmering beneath an undulating cover of gelatin? Don't you just love the ones with little marshmallows?

But, ahhh, grits!

There has never been a fish fry without cheese-grits and hush puppies, and the drink of choice for all of this is, of course, a huge glass of sweetened ice tea made by the first light of day and set out in a clear glass jug to steep with the sun. And every true Southerner loves a morning breakfast with eggs over easy laid gently over a bed of grits with crisp bacon and hot-from-the-oven biscuits. Don't forget the butter and syrup, or that pot of freshly ground and brewed coffee.

Those of us with roots in the South have certainly attended family reunions, church dinners and community feeds to raise money for a little league baseball team or civic club, or maybe just to celebrate who we are on a lazy Fourth of July afternoon. Perhaps we are not aware of its proper place at the table, but given some time to reflect on one uniquely southern food, it must be grits that binds us all together.

This common food, grits, is a dish that can recapture in a minute the life and times of a region of America uniquely rich in family and tradition. That it is inexplicably tied to the land and its bounty of crops is not so much a mystery, but the roots of an agrarian society. It should surprise no one that for centuries Native Americans have prepared meals using a mixture of corn that today we call grits.

A website (Grits.com) is dedicated to grits, making available a wide variety of goods and links to other southern foods, institutions, and places that would interest a grits aficionado. Books are available with wonderful names such as Gone With The Grits by Diane Pfeifer and True Grits by Janie Miller.

You know, maybe buttermilk biscuits, fried okra, fried chicken, sweet potatoes or pecan pie can't be far behind. And yes, let us not forget the barbecue. I would also say "amen" to that!


BIO: Edward V. Folkes, Jr. is a native Floridian, living and working in Tampa, Florida. He writes, "The deep roots of the South are here in Tampa, but certainly have been diluted over the years. I was raised in a small, rural town, Dade City, Florida, about thirty miles north of Tampa, that I consider more 'cracker' country. Its institutions and society were certainly more deeply rooted in the Old South. I have family in both Virginia and Alabama, and thoroughly enjoy the connection and continuing experience of my heritage."

Contact Edward at this address.

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