Monday, June 20, 2011

Cornmeal Anthropology

Today, students, we are going to talk about grits. Most specifically, the Pioneer Woman's Cheese Grits (p. 164).  When a lot of people think of grits, they just think of a mushy, soupy cornmeal mash - and Southern people. And, while grits are a mushy, soupy cornmeal mash, they are exceedingly tasty and have a very interesting history. Enter here Food Anthropology 101.

Grits are made of roughly ground corn, or maize. Corn is something we take for granted. We eat it. Cows eat it. Our cars eat it. Most highly processed foods contain corn in the form of syrup. But corn was not always so ubiquitous. It was domesticated from a grass in Mexico 8,700 years ago, according to National Geographic. Corn is older than dirt, y'all. Well, kind of.

Grits are a form of ground corn that is baked and mixed with a variety of ingredients. The word grits is an English variation of the German word, "grutze," and the Italian word, "gruzzi". And we thought it was just an American word derived from the sound it makes between your teeth. Okay, so maybe all this history doesn't automatically make grits into the high-class food we were trying to persuade you that it was. But, we do promise that this 8,700-year-old food, with a little help from cheese, cayenne and garlic, will hit the spot. Add it to your comfort food syllabus.

We started by boiling nine cups of salted water. To the boiling water we added two cups of quick grits. These took about five minutes to cook.

On the side, we whisked together four eggs, tempering them with small spoonfuls of warm grits. We then added the egg mixture to the large pot of grits.

Then came the butter. Someday we'll lecture on the origins of butter, since we know you've yet to have your fill of food history.

Sharp cheddar cheese was added. A yummy and obscene amount of sharp cheddar cheese.

We stirred until all the cheese melted. Next we added the garlic and cayenne. Ree even suggests jalapenos, green chiles or Rotel. This time we decided to keep it simple. Ree's directions say to place this in a baking dish. We, however, were a bit weary of doing dishes at the time and decided to leave it in the Dutch oven to cook. This tasty mush baked for about 40 minutes, due to the deepness of the Dutch oven.

This recipe is like macaroni-and-cheese, without the macaroni. Or maybe blended macaroni-and-cheese. On second thought, don't try that. Lou was craving mac-and-cheese after her wisdom teeth were removed, tried the blended version and found it to be less than stellar. Too many pudding cups will cause you to try strange things. Especially after anesthesia. But, we digress. All of this to say, the grits are oh-so-mushy and oh-so-good.

The guys roasted two, whole chickens on the grill, we roasted broccoli and cauliflower in the oven and had a feast.

Thank you for your attention. You've earned three credit points and a bowl full of cheesy grits.

Happily full,

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