Well, if you’re going to live in the southern part of the United States, you need to get familiar with grits.
Grits is a ground-corn food of Native American origin, common in the Southern United States and eaten mainly at breakfast. Modern grits are commonly made of alkali-treated corn known as hominy.
Grits are similar to other thick maize-based porridges from around the world such as polenta. “Instant grits” have been processed to speed cooking.
The word “grits” derives from the Old English word “grytt,” meaning coarse meal. This word originally referred to wheat and other porridges now known as groats in parts of the UK. Maize, unknown in Europe in the Middle Ages, is a food derived from corn (a New World plant) and “corn” had been used to describe wheat products in many European regions. “Grits” may be either singular or plural; historically, in the American South the word was invariably singular notwithstanding its plural form (cf. such food names as “spaghetti” or “linguine”, likewise plural in form).
Three-quarters of grits sold in the U.S. are sold in the South, throughout an area stretching from Texas to Virginia, sometimes referred to as the “grits belt”. The state of Georgia declared grits its official prepared food in 2002. Similar bills have been introduced in South Carolina, with one declaring:
“Whereas, throughout its history, the South has relished its grits, making them a symbol of its diet, its customs, its humor, and its hospitality, and whereas, every community in the State of South Carolina used to be the site of a grits mill and every local economy in the State used to be dependent on its product; and whereas, grits has been a part of the life of every South Carolinian of whatever race, background, gender, and income; and whereas, grits could very well play a vital role in the future of not only this State, but also the world, if as Charleston’s The Post and Courier proclaimed in 1952, “An inexpensive, simple, and thoroughly digestible food, [grits] should be made popular throughout the world. Given enough of it, the inhabitants of planet Earth would have nothing to fight about. A man full of [grits] is a man of peace.”
The phrase, “Kiss my grits!” was popularized by the TV show, Alice, and the waitress, played by Linda Lavin, who was clearly a southerner and would say the phrase to those who were frustrating her as she worked.
Okay, here’s my restaurant tip of the week: if you want the best grits you’ll ever eat, I encourage you to go to the Flying Biscuit, a chain of restaurants round ’bout these parts (Atlanta). Ya’ll won’t find any better grits anywhere, ya heah?
ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1925, the worst tornado in U.S. history passed through eastern Missouri, southern Illinois, and southern Indiana, killing 695 people, injuring some 13,000 people, and causing $17 million in property damage. Known as the “Tri-State Tornado,” the deadly twister began its northeast track in Ellington, Missouri, but southern Illinois was the hardest hit. More than 500 of the total 695 people who perished were killed in southern Illinois, including 234 in Murphrysboro and 127 in West Frankfort.
A tornado develops in climate conditions that, in the United States, are generally unique to the central and southern plains and the Gulf states. The rotating winds of tornadoes can attain velocities of 300 mph, and its diameter can vary from a few feet to a mile. A tornado generally travels in a northeasterly distance at speeds of 20 to 40 mph and usually covers anywhere between one and more than 100 miles.
The Tri-State Tornado of 1925–which traveled 219 miles, spent more than three hours on the ground, devastated 164 square miles, had a diameter of more than a mile, and traveled at speeds in excess of 70 mph–is unsurpassed in U.S. history.
TRIVIA FOR TODAY: To become more attractive in the Middle Ages, affluent noblewomen would swallow arsenic or dab bat’s blood on their skin to improve their complexion. As recently as the 18th century, American women washed themselves in the warm urine of a young boy to erase their freckles.