If you find yourself in the American South… and you’re hungry… and it’s time for breakfast… there’s a good chance you’re going to be served a big, steaming bowl of grits.

Don’t let the name fool you, though. The stuff inside the bowl is definitely good eats!

Although grits is known mainly as a Southern delicacy, it’s also arguably the first truly “American” food. When the first pilgrims came ashore at what is now Jamestown, Virginia, their first experiences with Native Americans probably involved discovering a traditional dish the natives called “rockahominie.”

This steaming porridge was made of softened, ground corn and seasoned with salt and animal fat. Today, we call porridge made of ground corn “grits.”

The word may have come from either the German word grütze or the Italian word gruzzi, both of which mean “crushed or coarsely ground corn.”

And, speaking of words, did today’s question — What IS Grits? — make you wonder about our grammar? We hope it did! Grits sounds like it’s plural and should therefore take a plural verb, such as “are” instead of “is.”

However, grits is a unique and rare noun with a grammar all its own. Although grits is always spelled with an “s” and appears to be plural, it can actually be used as either singular or plural in writing and speaking.

Today, grits is a traditional part of Southern cooking. Of the more than 150 million pounds of grits produced each year, more than two-thirds are consumed in the South. Grits is even the official prepared food of the state of Georgia!

So how does one go about cooking grits? A typical recipe calls for one part grits to be added to two to three parts boiling water.

After being seasoned with salt and/or sugar, the grits are usually cooked 15 to 20 minutes until the water is absorbed and the grits form a thick porridge. Occasional stirring is necessary to prevent the grits from sticking and becoming lumpy.

Grits is usually not eaten plain. A variety of additives — including butter, salt, sugar, cheese and gravy — are popular. Grits is usually served for breakfast, along with side items like ham, sausage or eggs.

 

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    • Hi, Andrew! Those dogs were pretty cool, weren’t they? They sure like grits! We like that you are using your thinking skills to try to guess what tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day® will be! Be sure to check back to see if your guess was correct! :-)

    • Hi, Kyle! We’re glad you liked the video for today’s Wonder! Thank you for hanging out in Wonderopolis today and for leaving us a comment! :-) :-)

  1. Yesterday our class made predictions about what this wonder would be and we were not close. The “Wonder what’s next?” have been making our class really think. Thank you!

    • It makes us VERY happy to hear that your class enjoys the “Wonder What’s Next?” section of each Wonder of the Day®, Miss Shoemaker! Thank you so much for letting us know by leaving us this AWESOME comment! :-)

  2. Looks like mushed corn. Seven out of eight of us have tried grits. Some of us like to have suger with it. Some people put butter in it. We learned that it came from the southern part of the country.

    • There are LOTS of different ways to enjoy grits, Mrs. Leonard’s class! Thank you so much for leaving us this super comment today and letting us know how some of you enjoy eating grits! Do you have any special regional foods where you live? :-)

  3. That was kind of a weird video, but that was your option, so you picked that video. And I think Fishing is tomorrow. Am I correct? Say YES or No, and if no give me a hint please?!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Hi, Olivia! It looks like you were RIGHT when you said Wonder #363 might be about FISH…it’s about SUSHI! Be sure to check it out today and learn some new things about a food many people think is YUMMY! Thank you for letting us know what you thought about the video, too. We appreciate your comment! :-)

  4. I like bulldogs. In fact, my school is the Baily Bulldogs. Trey, Andrew, and Olivia go to school with me. Thanks for the video. Cheesy grits is my third favorite food. Me and my sister both go to Wonderopolis every day. Sorry I don’t comment on all of the Wonders, I have a lot to do. Thanks for letting me wonder today and every day!!!!!!!!

    • We liked your comment very much, soccer101! Thank you for sharing it with us today! We also think it is neat that you go to school with Trey, Andrew and Olivia and that you love grits! We love grits, too! It makes us very happy to hear that you visit Wonderopolis every day…THANK YOU! :-)

  5. I really liked this video because grits are one of my favorite foods! My family has grits for most holidays! We make ours with cheese and bake them in the oven. Thanks, Wonderopolis!

    • Mmmmm! The way your family prepares grits sounds really delicious, Lilly! It is making us hungry! Thanks so much for sharing your comment with everyone in Wonderopolis! :-)

    • We think so, too, Julie! They sure do like eating those grits! Thanks so much for visiting Wonderopolis today and for sharing GREAT comments with us on every Wonder you explored! :-)

  6. Now Wonderopolis, you are truly up my alley!! I grew up on grits, grits and more grits. Grits with cheese, grits with tomatoes, grits with gravy etc., etc., etc. I love grits. A great southern dish. My family has excellent southern cooks. Wonderopolis thank you again!! There is nothing, and I mean nothing like southern cooking and a good bowl of grits in the A.M.!!

    • You’ve got our stomachs growling, Jeff! We love that you grew up eating grits and that you can share all the different ways to prepare and eat this delicious corn-filled treat! We love great Wonder Friends like you– thank you for WONDERing with us! Have a SUPER day! :)

  7. Southern grits are the bomb! I am from the Northeast and tried them for the first time in the South and can’t believe the difference. If you get the chance, try the real deal from a Southern state!

    • YUM, Sandy, your description of “true” Southern grits is SUPER! You’ve got our stomachs growling here at Wonderopolis! Thanks for making the connection between the grits you’ve tasted in the South to our Wonder! We’re so happy you’re here! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • What is grits?
  • Is “grits” singular or plural?
  • Which foods are famous in your part of the world?

Wonder Gallery

Try It Out

Ready to try your hand at making grits? Grab an apron, head to the kitchen and let’s get cooking! If you need to get some grits, ask someone to help you make a quick trip to the grocery store first.

Try out this easy-to-make grits recipe from Paula Deen, a famous Southern chef. Feel free to sample a variety of toppings on your grits.

Do you like them with butter? Sugar? Cheese? Gravy? Something else entirely?

If you live in the South, then you can claim grits as a regional favorite. If you live elsewhere in the United States (or around the world), we’d love to know what unique foods are special where you live.

Email us a picture or a recipe to let us know what regional specialties your part of the world calls its own!

Of course, not everyone likes grits. If you’ve tried them and don’t like them, you can still have fun with corn. Try making a fun corn collage you can use to decorate your house!

 

Still Wondering

Not sure about grits? Explore National Geographic Education’s Crispy Critters feature to read about how “The Bug Chef” cooks up insects — and explains how eating them is good for you and the environment!

 

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