I recently watched a very charming, hyper Brian Malarkey perform an entertaining demo at the Austin Food & Wine Festival. Afterward, I picked his brain on grits for this Today Show article. (Not only are they all the rage at each of his restaurants, in their own unique way, but they're popping up in restaurants all over the country.)
While writing this article, I couldn't help but recall my first grits experience... my friend Nili (a fellow Jersey girl) and I decided to go on a spontaneous spring break road trip during college. While some of our classmates would spend the break diving in Belize or lounging in Tulum, we decided to just start driving south from New York and see how far we could get in the days we'd allotted...
photo by Dan4th Nicholas on Flickr
Which brought us to Virginia Beach...for several grey, rainy days. With some time on our hands now that the beach wasn't a viable option, we went on a hunt for...grits! Neither of us had had them before and we were eager to give the Southern staple a good college try *har har*
"Where do we find them?" I wondered.
"Anywhere, I'm pretty sure!" answered Nili confidently. "They're everywhere in the South." (She'd been to Virginia once before as a child and remembered it like grits just fell from the sky). "And they're super cheap- I'm sure they'd be at any drive-through." We drove around and saw an unrecognizable fast food chain (I think it might've been Hardee's?? Looked Southern to us!) and got in line at the drive-through. When it was time to order, we scoured the menu as a voice came through the crackly intercom, asking us what we wanted.
"Do you have grits?"
The perplexed cashier asked us to repeat ourselves a couple times before telling us to pull up. We repeated the request face to face. "You know, grits? Like, the mushy corn you have for breakfast?" Other employees had come over to the window to peer at us too-- one bemused, one raised eyebrow, and the original with a slight, skeptical smirk.
"Nah, we don't sell grits here..."
We eventually did find our grits, and it was at an adorable, old-timey mom-and-pop type place with a breakfast buffet and hand-printed signs with messages like "take what you like but eat what you take" and "y'all come back now, ya hear?" It was all we young, doe-eyed Yankees could ask for.
And now, years later, I snub the 99 cent, store-brand grits in favor of course, stone-ground Homestead Gristmill grits. And I chuckle whenever I pass a Hardee's on the highway.
If you aren't craving a bowl of warm, cheesy grits by now, click here and read on...