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Gone with the grits. July 30, 2008

Posted by ourfriendben in critters, recipes.
Tags: , , , ,

Silence Dogood here. Yesterday, our friend Ben and I went with the family to the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores, just down the road from the beach house where we’re staying this week. I was disappointed that the skates and stingrays—my favorites—weren’t on display (their tank was being repaired), but loved seeing the horseshoe crabs, turtles, and jellyfish. One tank held a pair of such bristly, repulsive-looking lobsters that I had to wonder how it ever occurred to anyone to try to eat one.

Of course, we all gathered around the huge shark tank and watched the big guys sail around. (Ever notice how avid-looking sharks’ eyes are? So different from the quiet, flat eyes of other fish. Brrrr. Talk about an “I’m gonna get you!” look.) Sadly, Ben didn’t have his camera phone with him, so we couldn’t get a picture of ourselves looking out from the big shark skeleton jaws in the lobby. Maybe next time…

Ahem, you’re probably thinking, what does this have to do with grits? Well, of course the aquarium has a gift shop. I rushed in, hoping they had a book on jellyfish, or at least a jellyfish postcard. Instead, they had a great selection of regional and Southern cookbooks. (They also had fish-related stuff for all ages, just no jellyfish stuff.) Naturally, I turned my back on the cookbooks and walked sedately out. Uh, right. Let’s rewind that: Naturally, I knocked our friend Ben, several family members, and a total stranger over as I raced for the cookbook table. And there it was: Gone with the Grits.

It’s true. Someone named Diane Pfeifer had written an entire, 158-page cookbook in which every single cotton-pickin’ recipe contained grits. (Well, except for the cream cheese icing. But the carrot cake it goes on does indeed contain grits.) What’s more, it’s a vegetarian cookbook. A vegetarian cookbook in which every recipe, from Sour Cream ‘N’ Chives Dip and Creamy Caesar Salad Dressing to Banana Cream Cookie Pudding and Georgia Peach Cobbler, contains grits. I had to have it.

Our friend Ben and I love grits: hot grits with tons of butter and salt, cheese grits, and especially fried grits. (Of course, they have to be cooked right—see Ben’s post “Ben Picks Ten: Southern Comfort Foods” for more on that. Otherwise, they’re horrific.) But it would not have occurred to me to cook other foods with grits as an ingredient. In fact, when I started looking at the cookbook in the gift shop, I assumed it was a joke. But the recipes looked like they’d actually taste good. And I could see grits adding a moist richness to other dishes. Hmmmm.

Back at the beach house, I continued to be pleased by what I saw. The recipes were real food using real ingredients, not toss this packet into this box into this can and microwave, the end. True, I will not make the Ricotta Dumplings (with, of course, grits), or the Japanese Teriyaki Grits, or the New Year’s Eve Eggnog Pudding (also with grits). But I wouldn’t have made them without grits, either. And no, I’m not going to put grits in my Caesar dessing or my stuffed shells, pizza, or custard. I love grits, but not that much. However, I can definitely see grits enhancing cornbread, souffles, and veggie burgers, not to mention casseroles, Thanksgiving dressing, and yes, maybe even falafel patties. I’ll give those recipes—and many others—a try and see how they turn out. Stay tuned!

If you love grits and/or really unique, personable cookbooks, check out Gone with the Grits. It’s more than a corny (couldn’t resist that) gimmick: The author, Diane Pfeifer, is clearly willing to put her money where her mouth is. The cookbook appears to be self-published, and Ms. Pfeifer has her own grits products line, Grits Bits, which features Cheddar, Jalapeno, and Garlic-Parmesan grits snack biscuits and Sweet Cream Butter grits cookies. For more on the products and cookbook, their website is www.GritsBits.com. Who’da thunk?!

             ‘Til next time,