How to Look At Grits

Alissa Wilkinson
Dec 6, 2014 · 2 min read

First, have a late night. Then crawl out of bed as early as you can manage to finish that review you started twelve hours ago.

When you finish, look up at the clock. It will be noon.

Wonder if you should stop and eat something. Then become engrossed in the work again. Look up briefly an hour a later when your husband hands you the first cup of coffee of the day.

Stop to smell it. It will smell like nuts mixed with roasted grain, and it will set your brain buzzing.

He’ll leave for the gym around two o’clock. Remember that you’re still hungry. Tie on your shoes. See something scroll by on Twitter that can’t be ignored.

At three o’clock, decide you must go. They close at four. Trudge up the street in a light rain, dressed like an eleven-year-old boy — keds, jeans, flannel shirt, sweatshirt, beanie—and when you get there, order what you want.

When they give it to you, bring it home and dump it into a big bowl. Mix it around. Then eat.

What you have is a big bowl of creamy grits, done as simply as possible: no cheese, no milk, no cream, just soft, warm, smooth grits. Each white spoonful is a mound of it, mixed with a sharply green pesto that bites your tongue just a little.

When you dumped out the container, the soft-boiled egg that was on top landed on the bottom. Dig it out. Use your spoon to cut through its soft white, breaking its yolk, which runs just a little. If you scoop it up, you end up with its slightly salty flavor (actually, this may be what “umami” tastes like) tinting the grits and turning them buttery.

The guy who handed you the container told you, with a grin, that the braised pork shoulder you asked them to add was especially good today. And that’s the last bit: it is tart and vinegary, more Carolina style than anything else. And yes. He was right.

You dig into the grits, finally, when the clock is ticking toward four and you still have a tremendous amount to do today. But you find yourself looking down at the bowl, amazed by how something so simple as grits can so seamlessly make an egg and some Carolina pork and pesto work together—how the grits’ total lack of ego, complete rejection of any pretension, utter disinterest in dressing up anything seems to have brought unity where there wouldn’t be some otherwise.

You wonder, for a moment, if that is a metaphor.

And then you take another scoop. Maybe sometimes grits are just grits.

    Alissa Wilkinson

    Written by

    Film Critic at @Voxdotcom | http://www.vox.com/authors/alissa-wilkinson