The diverse patchwork of Southern food styles is beginning to blur
December 29, 2016 1:43 PM   Subscribe

The Surprisingly Recent Story of How Shrimp and Grits Won Over the South. This isn't a new article, but damn did it make me want some shrimp and grits.
posted by showbiz_liz (44 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
 
I just got back from my first trip to Louisiana - and I loved it. And though imy sampling of real Southern cooking is limited to New Orleans, Lafayette, and North Carolina - the flavors were pretty distinct and rooted in a real localness in each place. The article talks about how for many people, "Southern" cooking has become an umbrella term the same way "Italian" has. But I would say that for locals Southerners - as with Italians - local traditions and tastes are held on to tightly. And that's a good thing.

Everyone I spoke to had an informed and passionate opinion about food, seasonality, and where to get the best version of a dish. There is a ingrained sense of food and eating in the South that I have not seen anywhere else in the US or Canada. A connectedness that was exhilarating to experience.
posted by helmutdog at 2:23 PM on December 29, 2016 [5 favorites]


As a native Southerner and longish time vegan, this is one of those dishes I do miss (pimento cheese, sausage biscuits and gravy are the others, maybe fried catfish too).
posted by Kitteh at 2:26 PM on December 29, 2016 [2 favorites]


But I would say that for locals Southerners - as with Italians - local traditions and tastes are held on to tightly. And that's a good thing.

let me tell u why Eastern-style Carolina barbecue is vastly superior to Western-style

South Carolina barbecue apologists are not invited to this discussion
posted by showbiz_liz at 2:35 PM on December 29, 2016 [13 favorites]


As a native Southerner and longish time vegan, this is one of those dishes I do miss (pimento cheese, sausage biscuits and gravy are the others, maybe fried catfish too).

Oh my GOD, biscuits and gravy with a side of fresh fruit used to be my go-to hangover food and up in NYC it is impossible to get decent biscuits and gravy. I bought some biscuits at a farmer's market once because I didn't think I could make 'good enough' ones myself, and I made the milk gravy and poured it on and sat down to enjoy it and, mother of god, the biscuits had a bunch of sugar in them. DEVASTATING.
posted by showbiz_liz at 2:39 PM on December 29, 2016 [9 favorites]


Grew up in the Piedmont of North Carolina and in suburban Atlanta, and we didn't even put cheese in our grits, much less shrimp. The only topping grits got was salt, pepper, and a a huge slab of butter to bury inside your mound of grits until it melted and turned the grits into a butter volcano.

Now that I'm in Toronto, grits are hard to come by. You can find polenta but that is NOT the same thing.

The big grits questions is what kind of Quaker grits did your family use - instant (eww), 5 minute quick grits, or 20 minute grits?
posted by thecjm at 2:39 PM on December 29, 2016 [8 favorites]


u must listen:

go to Savannah, GA

eat the shrimp and grits at cotton and rye

die happy
posted by lalochezia at 2:43 PM on December 29, 2016 [3 favorites]


The big grits questions is what kind of Quaker grits did your family use - instant (eww), 5 minute quick grits, or 20 minute grits?

Usually the 5-minute, but if we were feeling real damn fancy, we'd get Old Mill, 'a fully operational, water-powered, 18th century grist mill listed on the National Register of Historic Places'
posted by showbiz_liz at 2:49 PM on December 29, 2016 [4 favorites]


showbiz_liz, homemade biscuits of any kind will be far superior as a substrate for gravy. Here's a recipe that has literally two ingredients:
2 cups self-rising flour
1 1/2 cups heavy cream

Stir together, dust the dough with a little more flour, turn out and knead for a minute, cut the dough into biscuit sized pieces, and bake for 12-15 minutes at 425 degrees.

If you're even lazier than that (I usually am), skip the kneading and cutting and just drop biscuit sized lumps of dough onto the baking sheet, and bake.
posted by Daily Alice at 2:49 PM on December 29, 2016 [25 favorites]


No butter at all, though? Seems lightly blasphemous. (I'll try it!)
posted by showbiz_liz at 2:51 PM on December 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


I never ate or even saw grits until I moved to North Carolina at age 28, but it didn't take long for me to recognize their perfection. I'm not a seafood eater, but cheese grits with poached eggs on top is just the best ever.
posted by Daily Alice at 2:52 PM on December 29, 2016 [2 favorites]


Seriously, it works because the heavy cream has enough fat and you don't have to do all that tedious cutting in of the butter. This is not a flaky biscuit with layers, but it is tender and delicious.
posted by Daily Alice at 2:53 PM on December 29, 2016 [4 favorites]


Now that I'm in Toronto, grits are hard to come by. You can find polenta but that is NOT the same thing.


I have spent so many fruitless hours here in Canada searching for grits. Polenta is plentiful, not grits.

My family was the 5 minute grits; my grandma did the 20 minute ones.
posted by Kitteh at 3:00 PM on December 29, 2016


No butter at all, though? Seems lightly blasphemous. (I'll try it!)

Dropped Cream Biscuits are a thing. Add shredded cheddar and garlic powder and save the trip to Red Lobster btw...

I haven't eaten breakfast in years. When I do, it's going to be Biscuits and Gravy.
posted by mikelieman at 3:12 PM on December 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


South Carolina barbecue apologists are not invited to this discussion

I'm going to engrave this over the mantle.

(But yes, Eastern. I was raised in the Western half of the state and I know this to be true)

As to the article, I have eaten at all of the restaurauts mentioned in the article. Crooks Corner/ Hominy Grill are pretty much my favorite shrimp and grits, but Magnolia's in Charleston, SC is kind of an underrated gem and not just for the their delicious shrimp and grits.
posted by thivaia at 3:41 PM on December 29, 2016 [2 favorites]


let me tell u why Eastern-style Carolina barbecue is vastly superior to Western-style

Let me tell you that I don't give a crap about anybody's totemic regional claims to superiority. I believe that we can all coexist happily. I believe that all low-and-slow-smoked meats are inherently awesome. So nyeaah.

cheese grits with poached eggs on top is just the best ever.

Cheese grits with damn near anything on top is the best ever!
posted by Greg_Ace at 4:18 PM on December 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


Let me tell you that I don't give a crap about anybody's totemic regional claims to superiority.

Oh, c'mon, it's no different than sports teams. Meat-based sports teams.

(Side note, I have long thought that Carolina barbecue would be huge in China if someone opened a NC-cuisine restaurant there, because it's made almost entirely of things that appeal to Chinese palates - pork, vinegar, hot pepper, cabbage. In another life where I was super-rich I'd probably give it a shot.)
posted by showbiz_liz at 4:26 PM on December 29, 2016 [9 favorites]


People who need good southern grits and have a Trader Joe's nearby should try theirs.

TJ's grits are good but what's equally or more important is the recipe on the bag of the bag, which should be heeded to the letter. And when the bag is empty (or you have your own supply of good grits from elsewhere), keep using that recipe, it's much better than the recipes provided by the traditional southern mills and can even render mediocre grits into something better than they started.
posted by ardgedee at 4:35 PM on December 29, 2016 [3 favorites]


South Carolina barbecue apologists are not invited to this discussion

*Does the Donald-Sutherland-body-snatchers thing at Texas*
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:40 PM on December 29, 2016 [3 favorites]


I made shrimp and grits for Christmas Eve dinner up here in MA. I'm a big fan and I'm originally from VA.
posted by natasha_k at 4:44 PM on December 29, 2016


@lalochezia I just happen to be in Savannah for the first time for a few days so that is very timely!
posted by SNACKeR at 4:56 PM on December 29, 2016


I'm making grits and eggs for dinner right now because of this thread.
posted by Daily Alice at 4:56 PM on December 29, 2016 [3 favorites]


Let me tell you that I don't give a crap about anybody's totemic regional claims to superiority.

Oh, c'mon, it's no different than sports teams.


Which I also don't give a crap about. :)
posted by Greg_Ace at 4:57 PM on December 29, 2016


Pretty much any kind of low-and-slow smoked meat is a-okay by me. I like vinegary sauces best for pork; I like the mustard SC one, too.

Greg_Ace is responsible for my smoking habit! Hi, Greg!
posted by rtha at 5:03 PM on December 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


Let me tell you that I don't give a crap about anybody's totemic regional claims to superiority. I believe that we can all coexist happily. I believe that all low-and-slow-smoked meats are inherently awesome. So nyeaah.

Spoken like someone from someplace where the BBQ sucks.

said the man from new york, where the bbq sucks
posted by Itaxpica at 5:09 PM on December 29, 2016 [5 favorites]


I grew up with my Alabama born grandma making me homemade biscuits and sausage, with the grease made into milk gravy in her cast iron skillet that's probably older than my dad.

This is probably a good place to leave a link to the BBQ Song. (Barbecue is not a verb. Barbecue is not a grill.)
posted by Fleebnork at 5:14 PM on December 29, 2016 [3 favorites]


Shrimp and grits from Husk in Charleston, SC, not to be missed. Any good rack of ribs needs hickory smoke. Best ribs I have ever found? Calhoun's in Knoxville.
posted by nofundy at 5:31 PM on December 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


The easy link to the original hides behind an LA Times paywall but you can also see it here if you scroll past the Britney Spears. Seems a well-known '60s musical celebrity requested a famous recipe for shrimp and grits, which is included.
posted by Rash at 5:32 PM on December 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


Spoken like someone from someplace where the BBQ sucks.

I spent my first 48 years in the south. So nyeeah again.
posted by Greg_Ace at 5:40 PM on December 29, 2016


Grew up in the toe of Louisiana, and we doctored our grits with butter mostly ( I'll second the butter volcano approach), syrup occasionally (Blackburn's or local cane), and the biscuits were a free for all. Didn't have shrimp and grits until the late 90s, in Jackson, MS.
(Quaker 20-minute, by the way, though we kept the other for emergency....until a local grist mill opened....)
The particularity in our parts was the rice with almost every meal.
posted by pt68 at 5:42 PM on December 29, 2016


Usually the 5-minute, but if we were feeling real damn fancy, we'd get Old Mill, 'a fully operational, water-powered, 18th century grist mill listed on the National Register of Historic Places'

A bag or two of Old Mill grits in the carry-on is worth the guaranteed TSA bag check every time I fly out of GSO.

Also, while we’re primarily a lard-biscuit household, I can confirm that cream biscuits are legit, easy, and delicious.
posted by musicinmybrain at 5:58 PM on December 29, 2016


Growing up in NC, I never had shrimp and grits then I moved to DC and it's de rigueur at all of the city's gussied up Southern restaurants. I like it, so I'm not complaining, but I'm not nostalgic about it. Seafood I grew up with was invariably fried and served with hush puppies and cole slaw.

The best grits I've had at home were acquired by my Yankee father-in-law on a work trip from a South Carolina prison farm. I felt weird about eating them, but they were fantastic.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:42 PM on December 29, 2016


Cream biscuits are the easiest biscuits ever. But if you want that buttermilk biscuit and want your fat processing streamlined then freeze your butter or lard AND use the large shredding or slicing blade of your food processor will get you those delicate flakes of fat that to be tossed with your dry ingredients. Tender biscuits require minimal handling and if you flake or have delicate chunks of fat without using your hot hands then all the better. If rolling the dough use the puff pastry method where you fold in thirds and rotate.
posted by jadepearl at 7:45 PM on December 29, 2016 [2 favorites]


I use 20-minute grits, but it only takes me 5 minutes to prepare them. I'm a fast cook, I guess.
posted by schmod at 7:51 PM on December 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


Shrimp and grits are part of a phenomenon that I've come to call pan-Southernism, in which dishes and cooking styles that were once unique to specific parts of the South are rolled into a single melting pot of cookery that gets labeled "Southern cuisine."

Sweet tea is one of these things. It wasn't always a thing everywhere all the time in the South.
posted by asperity at 8:25 PM on December 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


Grew up on old-style grits which only had salt (lots), pepper, and butter added, like many of you above. What bothers me most about the grits I get these days, with or without shrimp, is the soupiness of it. Grits should be stiff enough to stand a fork in it, with the butter adding a little looseness. It's not cream of wheat, dammit. And if it's too soupy, you won't be able to slice the leftover grits and fry them in redeye gravy. And, of course, Eastern NC BBQ. [grew up in Wilmington, now in Asheville]. Am going tomorrow to Buxton Hall BBQ here in Asheville—rave reviews all over—we'll see.
posted by MovableBookLady at 8:26 PM on December 29, 2016 [4 favorites]


Oh man, Buxton Hall is fantastic. And the barbecue is amazing, but I recommend trying to figure out how to taste the chicken sandwich while you're there. It's kind of sublime.
posted by thivaia at 8:51 PM on December 29, 2016


Don't hate on SC BBQ! I mean, mustard-based sauce can be decent, but Scott's Variety Store in Hemingway, SC has the best pepper-and-vinegar 'cue I've ever had. And I say this as a current resident of Durham who has tried every relevant establishment within 50 miles.
posted by Maecenas at 5:25 AM on December 30, 2016


I made grits for breakfast for my Canadian sister-in-law and her husband. I set the bowl of grits on the table and went back to the stove to mind the eggs. By the time I got back, they had put dried fruit in that poor bowl of grits and were making painfully polite comparisons to cream of wheat. I wiped the reflexive look of abject horror from my face, smiled politely, and ate my buttered grits in silence.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 8:29 AM on December 30, 2016


Don't hate on SC BBQ! I mean, mustard-based sauce can be decent, but Scott's Variety Store in Hemingway, SC has the best pepper-and-vinegar 'cue I've ever had.

I'm only about half way through, but this week's Top Chef episode features BBQ and the owner of Scott's BBQ.
posted by mmascolino at 8:34 AM on December 30, 2016


showbiz_liz: "But I would say that for locals Southerners - as with Italians - local traditions and tastes are held on to tightly. And that's a good thing.

let me tell u why Eastern-style Carolina barbecue is vastly superior to Western-style

South Carolina barbecue apologists are not invited to this discussion
"

But what about Northwestern-but-not-really-all-that-western-really-more-northern style barbecue?
posted by Samizdata at 9:25 AM on December 30, 2016


Sweet tea is one of these things. It wasn't always a thing everywhere all the time in the South.

How far back are we talking? My grandmother is from Alabama and my mom from Tennessee and both always have a pitcher of sweet tea made and in the refrigerator. It's been that way for all of my 43 years on this earth. When I was growing up, no self respecting mother was without a prepared pitcher of sweet tea. My mom even owns a smaller Tupperware pitcher that she pours the old sweet tea into before it runs out, so she can make a fresh batch for the big pitcher.
posted by Fleebnork at 2:06 PM on December 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


And I say this as a current resident of Durham who has tried every relevant establishment within 50 miles.

Were you there in time to try the A&M in Mebane? Best fuckin' hush puppies in the damn galaxy.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:26 PM on December 30, 2016


I use 20-minute grits, but it only takes me 5 minutes to prepare them. I'm a fast cook, I guess.

Were these magic grits?
posted by the_blizz at 3:19 PM on December 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


Well, the guy I traded a cow to for them claimed they were, anyway....
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:00 PM on December 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


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