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Published on 05/31/2007 9:35 pm   (Last Updated 06/02/2007 10:59 am)
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Grain Belt vs Grits Belt
By Lightning Striker and the Diving Headers
Jimmy crack corn, an' I don't care
Jimmy crack corn, an' I don't care
Jimmy crack corn, an' I don't care
The master's gone away.
Creamy Grits with Shrimp Recipe

American folk song called "The Blue Tail Fly," by Daniel Decatur Emmett (1815-1904), American musician and songwriter, 1846.

To a Southerner, eating grits is practically a religion, and breakfast with(out) grits is unthinkable. A true grit lover would not consider instant or quick-cooking grits; only long-cooking stone-ground grits are worth eating. Outside of the southern states, the reaction to grits is mixed.

Three-quarters of the grits sold in the United States are from a belt of coastal states stretching from Louisiana to the Carolinas, known as the "Grits Belt."

Grits (or hominy) were one of the first truly American foods, as the Native Americans ate a mush made of softened corn or maize. In 1584, during their reconnaissance party of what is now Roanoke, North Carolina, Sir Walter Raleigh and his men met and dined with the local Indians. Having no language in common, the two groups quickly resorted to food and drink. One of Raleigh's men, Arthur Barlowe, recorded notes on the foods of the Indians. He made a special note of corn, which he found "very white, faire, and well tasted." He also wrote about being served a boiled corn or hominy.

When the colonists came ashore in Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607, the Indians offered them bowls of this boiled corn substance. The Indians called it "rockahomine," which was later shortened to "hominy" by the colonists. The Indians taught the colonists how to thresh the hulls from dried yellow corn. Corn was a year-round staple and each tribe called it by a different name.

In the Low Country of South Carolina and particularly Charleston, shrimp and grits has been considered a basic breakfast for coastal fishermen and families for decades during the shrimp season (May through December). Simply called 'breakfast shrimp," the dish consisted of a pot of grits with shrimp cooked in a little bacon grease or butter. During the past decade, this dish has been dressed up and taken out on the town to the fanciest restaurants. Not just for breakfast anymore, it is also served for brunch, lunch, and dinner.

In 1976, South Carolina declared grits the official state food:

Whereas, throughout its history, the South has relished its grits, making them a symbol of its diet, its customs, its humor, and its hospitality, and whereas, every community in the State of south Carolina used to be the site of a grist mill and every local economy in the State used to be dependent on its product; and whereas, grits has been a part of the life of every South Carolinian of whatever race, background, gender, and income; and whereas, grits could very well play a vital role in the future of not only this State, but also the world, if as The Charleston News and Courier proclaimed in 1952: 'An inexpensive, simple, and thoroughly digestible food, [grits] should be made popular throughout the world. given enough of it, the inhabitants of planet Earth would have nothing to fight about. A man full of [grits] is a man of peace.'

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Creamy Grits with Shrimp Recipe

1 pound large raw shrimp, peeled and deveined*

1 cup heavy cream

2 cups water

1 1/2 cups hot stock (shrimp, chicken, or vegetable)

1/4 cup butter

Salt and black pepper to taste

1 cup stone-ground grits**

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Salt and black pepper to taste

6 bacon slices

2 tablespoons finely chopped onion

1 clove garlic, minced

2 tablespoons finely chopped green or red bell pepper

* Add add flavor, place the shells of the shrimp in a saucepan and cover with water. Simmer over low heat approximately 7 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and strain the broth, discarding shells. Add shrimp broth to hot stock.

** If using quick-cooking grits (not instant, reduce cream to 1/2 cup and reduce stock to 1 cup.

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, combine cream water, and hot stock; bring to a gentle boil. Add butter salt, and pepper. Slowly add grits, stirring constantly (so that the grits do not settle to the bottom and scorch), until all are added; reduce heat to medium-low. Cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally (be careful not to scorch mixture), or until the grits are tender.

NOTE: Grits should have absorbed all of the liquid and become soft and should have the same consistency as oatmeal (moist, not dry). If the grits become too thick, add warm stock or water to thin. remove from heat.

Sprinkle shrimp with lemon juice, salt, and pepper; set aside. In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, cook bacon until brown but not crisp. Remove from heat and pat dry with paper towels; set aside. Coarsely chop bacon when cool. Reserve 4 tablespoons bacon grease in the frying pan. Add onion, garlic, and green or red bell pepper; saute 10 minutes or until the onion is transparent. Add shrimp mixture and bacon; saute 5 to 7 minutes or until shrimp are opaque in center (cut to test).  Remove from heat.

To serve, spoon hot grits onto individual serving plates and top with shrimp mixture.

Makes 4 servings.

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