Made using ground corn kernels, grits have been a Southern specialty ever since Native Americans introduced a variation of the dish to sixteenth-century English settlers in Roanoke, North Carolina. Whether served under savory shrimp, covered with cheese, or topped with a bit of sugar and butter, this kitchen staple has stood the test of time as a filling and flavorful favorite for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
- There are several varieties of grits—including stone-ground, hominy, quick, and regular—but as Sam Tipton’s character in the hit film My Cousin Vinny says: “No self-respectin’ Southerner uses instant grits.”
- Grits are the official state food of South Carolina and the official prepared food of Georgia.
- Three-quarters of all grits sold in the United States are purchased in the “Grits Belt,” stretching from Texas to Virginia.
- Shrimp and grits originated in the twentieth century as a simple but hearty breakfast for Lowcountry sailors and fishermen during shrimping season from May through December.
- Crook’s Corner in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, claims to be the first restaurant to have put shrimp and grits on the menu in the early eighties. The James Beard Award–winning restaurant estimates that between twenty-five and thirty percent of its customers order the dish.
- “Kiss my grits” was the cheeky catchphrase of Florence Jean “Flo” Castleberry, a character on the popular seventies sitcom Alice.
- While grits are sometimes thought of as an indulgent comfort food, you can eat them guilt-free if you limit the toppings; grits are an excellent source of vitamin B and iron.
- Get your fill of grits at the World Grits Festival in St. George, South Carolina, April 12–14. Watch—or take part in—the rolling-in-the-grits contest (roll in a pit of grits for ten seconds, and win by getting the most cooked grits to stick to you), and don’t miss the fest’s other highlights, including a grits-eating contest.
This article appears in the Spring/Summer 2019 issue of Southbound.