It was about this time of year in 1959 when I decided to join the Army. The recruiter sent me to the induction center in Atlanta. It was located in the old Sears and Roebuck building, the same one that later became Atlanta’s City Hall East. Recently it was in the news because the city had a giant garage sale there.
After going through all the testing, mental and physical, I was accepted. About a dozen of us were loaded on a greyhound bus to Columbia South Carolina for Basic Training at Fort Jackson.
As soon as we stepped off the bus the drill sergeants were in our faces. We were lined up and “marched” to the barber shop and then on to the supply room for uniforms and bedding. From there we marched, with the drill sergeants yelling at us to “get in step” to our barracks. We were too late for supper so they handed out sandwiches to get us through the night.
We were a mixed lot with guys from all over the eastern states. None of us were sure what to expect. Before sunrise the next morning we were shouted out of bed, to the showers, into our new uniforms, made our beds and cleaned our barracks under close supervision, then marched, clumsily to the mess hall for breakfast. We took our trays and lined up at the serving line. As we walked past, someone tossed on a couple of slices of toast, a sausage patty, a big scoop of scrambled eggs and a blob of white material. The guy beside me who was from Vermont looked a the mess and ask, “What is it?”
“Grits” I answered
“What do you do with it” he asked?
“You melt some of that butter sitting on the table in it, then with each fork of eggs or sausage, you dip it into the grits and eat it up,” was my reply.
That evening, after our first day of training, the Yankees in the group came around asking about the grits, what are they made of, are they hard to cook, etc. So I held a class on grits.
Do you know what grits are made of? They are dried and ground hominy. So what is hominy made of? You take dry corn, soak it in lye water until it puffs up, then wash it several times to get the lye out. That is hominy.
Southerners were left virtually penniless after the war, and they had few ways to preserve food. Corn was a major part of our diet. The corn crop was harvested, and stored in a specially designed building with slotted sides so that the air could circulate through it. That is the legendary Corn Crib. From that crib came chicken feed, cornbread and grits
Grits are one of the things that makes the South unique.
There is another kind of grits in Dixie. You spell it G.R.I.T.S. Girls Raised In The South. And Southern gentlemen love grits, both kinds of grits!
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. His website can be accessed at http://www.frankgillispie.com/gillispieonline.
one of those G.R.I.T.S. you wrote about
09/27/10 at 01:13 PM
Great article!! Nothing like steaming hot slow-cooked grits swimming in butter (cheese don't hurt either) with a big glass of sweet tea to wash it down! How blessed I am not only that I can cook 'em, but that I am one! hehehe