As a proud Southern man and cook, I enjoy our regional cuisine. Tasting the other bountiful harvests of this country and the exciting and varied cuisines of the world has turned me into a happy foodie.
But I get upset and then angry when a myth is perpetuated and the truth gets glossed over – again and again and again. With two major cooking networks and many other food based cooking and talk shows, you and I are inundated with food – all kinds.
Recently watching one of my favorite network daytime cooking/talk shows, a certain red headed famous chef fell into that same myth or trap. Hello world, grits and polenta are not the same thing!!! They are distant cousins, but vastly different. But come on, can’t your research teams get it straight.
Grits are made from dried hominy. Hominy is made by taking the whole kernels of corn and cooking them in a high alkaline cooking liquid. In the past, lye was used. My mother even tells me that my grandmother would use ashes from the wood burning stove. Cooking the kernels in this solution makes the corn swell and the outer skin come off. The result is a very fluffy wonderful dish. A lot of you have had hominy in a very famous Mexican soup – pozole.
Hominy kernels are then taken out and dried. When roughly ground, you have our wonderful Southern staple, grits. Grits are cooked in water, broth, milk, or cream – your choice. Seasoned with butter, salt and pepper. Delicious! Add some garlic and some cheese and I am in heaven.
If you grind the hominy into a powder, you have masa. Corn flour is used to make tortillas, tamales and in several other Mexican dishes.
Polenta is ground dried corn. Not grits. Polenta is also delicious, but damn you folks on TV are schooled chefs, get it right! Dried corn that has been ground more finely is corn meal. I use corn meal all of the time. (My corn bread versus corn pone family semantics lesson is another issue altogether.) Just because the corn is ground does not make it grits. Just because you cook the corn in a similar way to making grits, does not make them grits. GET IT RIGHT, PEOPLE!
Several years ago, I got into an email war of words with a very famous lifestyle maven’s creative team. She had featured a mill in one of the Carolinas that ground blue corn, red corn and on and on – AND THEY CALLED THEM GRITS! No, ma’am! Her team told me that I should be quiet and respect the fact that they broadcast worldwide and I should consider that they were correct. They were WRONG! I told her, you can call a hamburger a hot dog, but it doesn’t make it one.
It is an easy fact for Southerners to know. Don’t mess with our grits!