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Christmas Grits

Remember that guy who said his grandmother's quick grits were amazing? Neither does anyone else! Folks who say they don't like grits probably had his version! I remember one Christmas eve... standing in the grits aisle at the fancy store. I found myself next to an old black woman by the name of Naola Potts. She and I were just shaking our heads and looking at each other in disgust to find that they were all sold out of the old-fashioned variety, leaving only a mountain of the much-maligned quick grits. I told her I believed quick grits got their name from that one time some poor son-of-a-bitch said... "well, five minutes ... they're done ... how 'quickly' can I eat these so I can move on to some 'actual food.'" She said she was really counting on those grits for Christmas but being up in years and slow on her feet, she didn't think she had the strength to face the madness of one more store. I told her my cheesy grits where going in a crock pot for Christmas and that everybody was expecting them, so I had no choice but to soldier on. She turned... and considered me.... eyes sparkling... her head nodding gently. And then she gave me that look... that look of RESPECT one purist gives to another. We smiled sweetly at one another and parted ways. I will never forget Naola Potts. And when I drove across the street to the store that had them in plentiful supply, I sorely regretted not having the forethought to take down her phone number... cuz I would have gladly delivered them to her in person that very evening .... just for the chance to knock on her door and see that beautiful face again.

So here it is.... if you're going to bother with grits, get the old-fashioned kind and double the cook time on the back of the box... 1/2 an hour minimum... go for 45 minutes to an hour if you can. And this is the part where I go off the road a bit. Put the directions AWAY, turn the timer OFF. It's like that scene in Star Wars where Luke kills the death star. You can't kill the death star with fancy gadgets... you gotta go with your gut.... your heart... (and a little experience doesn't hurt). I'm not saying KILL the grits...but in a sense... I guess I AM! Just feel your way through it. Getting too thick? Add more water. It's a zen thing... ya know...just keep adding the love! Stir, stir, cover and stir...add water or remove the lid completely toward the end and let the extra water boil off... cook it until it's smooth and creamy like the consistency of chowder. After it gets to that creamy consistency... you're about 10 minutes from 'done.' Now is the time to mix in everything but the meat.... lots of creamy butter, cracked black pepper, salt and a generous helping of sharp cheddar cheese. Then only at the end, (so they don't get soggy) add in some crumbles of freshly cooked bacon or sausage and/or shrimp, if you want it like my Creole grandma (Houma, LA) used to make it. Now that I think about it, if there was a plate a food around - any plate - she would put shrimp on it! Remember, the grits will thicken a bit once you take them off the heat. So, if you can wait those few minutes before eating, it will be even better!

This is how we do it!!! I wish I could take credit for this photograph, but this is pretty much what mine look like when they are all done. Doesn't it look like love? This one's for you, Naola. :)

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