It was in September of 1965 that I volunteered to join the Army. I was shipped off to Ft. Jackson in Columbia, S.C (where I am today writing this blog) for basic training then off to Mineral Wells, TX to start flight school.
It was at breakfast on my first day at Ft. Jackson that I discovered southern cooking. I was in the mess line and saw they were serving one of my favorites, Cream-of-Wheat. So I asked for an extra helping. Now you should know that the Army has a very strict rule about mess: “take all you want but eat all you take”. They would even stand watch to be sure you didn’t throw any food away. I took a spoonful of the Cream-of-Wheat and UGH! What the heck did I just put in my mouth? It was awful and it was gritty! Key word here is gritty as in grits. What a shocker AND I had to eat it all the grits even the extra helping! Very unpleasant but to others at the table grits was pure bliss – are you kidding me?
Now it is lunch time and I see they are serving one of my favorites, spinach. I like spinach even more than Popeye does, so I had them give me an extra helping. And once again I thought ”what the heck did I just put in my mouth” it was really terrible. I mean really terrible. Come to find out it was collard greens – double UGH. And I had to eat it all even the extra helping! Again the southern boys were in hog heaven.
Dinner rolls around and I have to tell you I did not trust anything I saw on the mess line. Is that corn? Are you sure that is corn? Because I love corn and I could use and extra helping but……
This is a true story on how this buck private from Olmsted Falls, Ohio got introduced to southern cooking.
Now since them I have come to adore southern grits (hominy grits): butter, salt & pepper yummy. Cheesy grits, shrimp and grits – double yummy. Collards and other greens, except spinach, are a bit too bitter for me; I will eat them but not enjoy them.
Note: While on the subject of grits there are two kinds: hominy and ground corn. Hominy grits are traditional southern grits with Native American roots. You can check the packages in the grocery store and they will say Stone Ground Grits or Coarse Ground Grits but if it is not hominy is polenta not grits. Both are good but very different in taste. Quaker brad grits (long cooking) are hominy grits and what I would use in making shrimp and grits and when I think of southern cuisine.
Shrimp and Grits is a staple in the low country areas of North and South Carolina and Georgia. At first it was a breakfast dish for the fishermen during shrimping season (May thru December). They would cook up shrimp in bacon grease or butter and add on top of a plate of grits, easy enough. Now though there is a myriad of variations. It is a great dish, so go on line and find a receipt or pass on your creation to us.