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.