Lewis Grizzard speaking at 1982 event. (AJC file photo)
Photo: Nick Arroyo/AJC staff
Photo: Nick Arroyo/AJC staff

The story of ‘True Grits’

From grits to UGA football to the Atlanta Opera, legendary humorist and columnist Lewis Grizzard wrote about it all. On Nov. 7, 2019, Grizzard, one of Atlanta’s most beloved columnists, will be inducted into the Atlanta Press Club Hall of Fame. 

As a special gift to readers, we’re sharing some of Grizzard’s most memorable columns, published many years ago on the pages of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. We hope you enjoy Grizzard’s work — whether you’ve savored them before or are just reading them for the first time.  

Check out the Nov. 10 print edition of the AJC for a special section collecting these columns; you can also view the section online in the AJC ePaper on Nov. 10.

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I was hoping that four years of Georgian Jimmy Carter in the White House would finally clear up the matter of grits. Grits have been so terribly misunderstood by people who are from parts of the country other than the South.

But, alas, Georgia’s Jimmy is only a few weeks from departing Washington in favor of Californian Ronald Reagan, who wouldn’t know grits from granola, and I fear grits will never cross the gap that has left so many yet unaware of the history and many uses of one of America’s most interesting foods.

As one of the nation’s leading experts on grits (my mother served them every morning for breakfast), all I can do is try to light the way for those still blinded by prejudice and fear.

Grits won’t bite you. Grits taste good and they’re good for you. Just sit back and relax and put yourself in my hands and let’s go.

“DISCOVERING GRITS: GRIZZARD’S GUIDE TO A SOUTHERN DELICACY FOR FOLKS FROM NEWJERSEY AND PLACES LIKE THAT.”

  • The origin of grits: 

Cherokee Indians, native to the Southern region of the United States, first discovered grits trees growing wild during the 13th century. Chief Big Bear’s squaw, Jemima Big Bear, is said to have been out of oatmeal one day, so she gathered the tiny grits growing from the grits trees and cooked them in water for Chief Big Bear.

After eating the grits, Chief Big Bear ordered his squaw, Jemima, burned at the stake.

Later, however, Southern planter Jim Dandy found grits taste a lot better if you put salt and pepper and butter on them. Grits really took off in the South after that. Today, grits orchards may be seen from the Carolinas to Florida and west to Louisiana.

At some orchards, tourists may “pick their own grits.” If you decide to give it a try, make certain each grit you pick is ripe and firm. Raw grits tend to stick to the roof of your mouth and have been known to choke even large goats.

  • How grits got their name:

From the Cherokee word, grayette, which means “corn pebbles.” The Cherokees thought grits were tiny versions of corn. They even tried to make bread from grits, which brought about another big run on squaw- burning.

  • What does the word “hominy” mean?

It is Southern for “blended voices,” as in, “That quartet sure makes nice hominy, don’t it?”

  • How do we prepare grits?

First, go out to your grits trees and pick a peck of grits. Wash, then allow to soak in warm buttermilk for an hour. Add two tablespoons Jack Daniel (Black Label) Tennessee sippin’ whiskey and one cup branch water.

Stir, bake at 450 for approximately one hour. Cover with sawmill gravy, add butter, then salt and pepper to taste. Cheese (Kraft American) optional.

Must be served hot. Cold grits tend to get gummy. You wouldn’t serve cold, gummy grits to Communist sympathizers from New York.

  • What are some other uses for grits?

Patching blowouts. Snake bite. Bathroom caulking. In some parts of the South it is even believed grits will grow hair. This is doubtful. Grits do make a delightful party punch, however. Just add more Jack Daniel.

  • How can I order my grits tree?

By sending $38.95 for each tree desired to “Grits-a-Grow Grow,” in care of me. Add $15 if you want to take advantage of our special offer for our handy “Grit-Picker,” which will save time and wear and tear on your hands when you go out to gather grits off your new grits tree.

  • What else may I order from “Grits-a-Grow-Grow” ?

A special brochure outlining how you can purchase valuable vacation property at our new Alligator Point resort in Florida and about six zillion copies of Amy Carter’s Washington Coloring Book. Order now while they last.

Dec. 7, 1980

» Check out some other memorable Grizzard columns

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