Black History Month: Are GRITS supposed to be sweet or savory?

There is right and wrong answer to the savory versus sweet grits question. And if you don’t like the right answer, you can come fight me.

For as long as I can remember, the following options existed for breakfast at my house:

Oatmeal with raisins, sugar, cinnamon and evaporated milk; and perhaps a side of toast with some bacon or sausage.

A bowl of cereal—usually cornflakes or Rice Krispies—with sliced strawberries; and perhaps a side of toast with some bacon or sausage.

Cream of Wheat with sugar, butter and evaporated milk; and perhaps a side of toast with some bacon or sausage.

Scrambled eggs; grits with butter, salt and pepper; skillet-fried salmon patties, some hash browns; and perhaps a side of toast with some bacon or sausage. (This was usually on Sunday.)

Now that I think about it, this is a rather nice variety of breakfast fare. Way to go, Mom. The point is, however, that grits were a savory breakfast option. Not a sweet one. I wish somebody would have talked about putting sugar on some grits. Mess around and catch a hot one.

Yet in still, every few years, this contentious debate rears its head in the collective Black American community. And it is indeed a serious one. Why? Because ain’t nobody got time in the morning to make two different batches of grits—one sweet and one savory—just to appease the one fool in the family who thinks grits should be made with sugar  everyone. Besides, grits are not just for breakfast; they can be enjoyed any time of the day. And if you’re ever in Georgia and want a recommendation for where to find the best shrimp and grits, I gotcha.

Now I understand that people have different tastes and certain people (fools) can’t even stand to drink water without it being sweetened. Everyone has a right to consume food as they see fit. Preferences for eating grits, therefore, are based on whoever the consumer is. Also, ‘s  write up on this subject revealed that those who prefer savory grits are more likely to have Southern roots while those who prefer sweet grits are more likely to hail from elsewhere.

But I’m going to quickly lay this debate to rest for once and for all.

Grits existed in North America long before pilgrims or colonies or Southern Living came out with this recipe. As per this article (and as confirmed by several other resources around the interweb):

…the native peoples in North America were already eating a soft, mashed corn (or maize) – a dish that was introduced to European explorers in 1584. During surveillance of the new lands in present-day Roanoke, North Carolina, Sir Walter Raleigh and his men dined with the local Natives. One of the men, Arthur Barlowe, wrote about the ‘very white, faire, and well tasted’ boiled corn served by their hosts. Less than two decades later, this year-round staple – called ‘rockahomine’ by the Natives, later to be shortened to ‘hominy’ by the colonists – was offered to the new settlers in Jamestown, Virginia, when they arrived in 1607. The Natives taught the colonists how to make the dish, and it quickly became a part of the American diet.

The Muskogee Tribe (the “Natives” to which this passage refers) did not eat their grits with sugar. Grits were created as a savory dish and are meant to be consumed as a savory dish. So all ya’ll who are putting sugar on your grits, you’re wrong.

Happy Black History Month!

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