Wednesday, January 28, 2009


I just had a question from a friend on another continent, asking about grits and what's the difference in biscuits and Southern Biscuits, what are beaten biscuits and what about Hominy Grits. My answer in the "comment" section went on and on, as I am wont to do, so I just moved it here.

Scones and biscuits on the same day---what's not to love?

I don't know a lot about anybody else's biscuits, but almost all "Southern Biscuits" or Southern Style Biscuits are made by starting with a shortening---originally lard, and it's still used by purists and a lot of the new gourmet cooks. Now, Crisco is the one of choice mostly, and most cooks use Self Rising flour, even if they do add a little extra salt or leavening.

And Buttermilk is the Southern mixing-liquid, with or without "baking soda"---rare is the kitchen in the South which has not a box of Arm & Hammer in the cupboard, for biscuits and other baking, and for cleaning drains, freshening laundry, and keeping the fridge and freezer fresh and odor-free. Right in there beside the Argo Cornstarch and the can of Clabber Girl.

Grits is a singular food, and I still think and say "Grits are" because of the plural sound. One would never speak of "a grit," but I know it should be followed by "IS," just as you would say, "Molasses is."

There's corn grits, white made with the white center of the corn, or yellow, with the whole kernel, ground more coarsely than cornmeal, which makes such velvety, wonderful cornbread.

And there's HOMINY grits, made with the "lye" or (dictionary word) nixtamalized corn. It's dried, ground, and can be advertised as Hominy Grits, the old fashioned kind.

OH, and beaten biscuits---I've made them. Once. Just as an experiment on a lazy Saturday morning. They're like a cross amongst a Ritz cracker and a dog biscuit and a Communion Wafer---the really hard, tough kind found in Baptist churches, which, if they weren't tiny enough to get back there and crunch between your back teeth, would do some serious dental damage. Or hang out like a mint until they melt sometime between Lord's Supper and "Just As I Am."

I had a recipe once for a cake, from way in the day before mixers. You were supposed to beat it for six hours. Unh unh. Not me. Just smacking that biscuit dough "til elastic" with the rolling pin one time was enough for me. And nobody would eat 'em, anyway.

Grits and how to eat them have caused more family dis-harmony than politics---butter or not; sugar or not; gravy or shrimp or syrup on top.

I cook the plain old Quaker, right off the grocery shelf in the round cardboard cylinder---the cook-it kind. Those packets which dump powder in the bowl and change to part-mush, part-crunch under the boiling water---not spoken of in polite company.

The pot simmers for a bit whilst the bacon and eggs cook; a big pat of butter is scraped off the knife into the pot, left to melt, and stirred in just before ladling a good hot serving onto everybody's plate. Then it's every man for himself---treat 'em as you will. No censure from me.

Be sure and run an inch or two of warm water into the empty pot and replace the lid til time to do the dishes, or you'll be chipping spackle off that thing for a week.

Jeff Foxworthy says that every single garbage can in the South has one fork with white stone between the tines, that somebody gave up on.
And if the Egyptians had had grits instead of mortar, there'd be a whole townful of pyramids.


Southern Lady said...

Hi, Rachel ...

Tonja at Gatherings introduced you to us, and I am so pleased to have discovered your charming blog.

My favorite way to eat grits is with fried eggs mixed in them. Makes my mouth water just to think about it!

You have a wonderful way with words, Rachel, and I plan to come back when I have plenty of time and start at the beginning of your posts. I hope you will visit me at my blog, Southern Lagniappe, too.



racheld said...

Hello, Janie!

I was just there yesterday, looking my eyes full of kudzu and other Scenes from Home. I swear, I've seen more and better of my state than when I lived there.

I think I found you through "WhistleStop Cafe" and I've enjoyed your bright, fun blog.

And Chris is the eggs-in-grits man---two over easy, laid beside the grits and bacon. He carefully snips off most of the white, puts it on my plate, and then makes a lovely golden sauce of the eggs to anoint the grits.

I hope you'll visit often!!

Tonja said...

Love me some grits! There is nothing that warms you thru and thru like grits. And those biscuits. My grandma from Atlanta used to make them like that in an iron skillet! I can still taste that first bite. It's the taste of someone preparing food with love! And they never taste as good as they do with lard!