I'm not too familiar with how to make grits; in fact, before today my only instructions came from My Cousin Vinny. Despite being a California kid, I have eaten grits several times. These days, they aren't too hard to find on brunch menus even out here on the West Coast, but even as a child I managed to get my hands on a few bowls, though I had to travel far.
The first time I tried grits was on the backside of a racetrack. In a past life, I was obsessed with horses, and when I was thirteen, my dad arranged every little horse-loving girl's dream vacation. On the way to a business trip in Washington, D.C., we stopped in Kentucky where we got a private tour of Claiborne Farms (where racehorses like Secretariat, Ferdinand, and Easy Goer were retired) and the granddaddy of all racetracks, Churchill Downs. Of course, it was late July, so racing season was over, and the Kentucky Derby was a distant memory. But that afforded us the opportunity to get a real behind-the-scenes look at daily operations.
We arrived at 6am, and our guide led us behind those famous twin-spired grandstands and out to the dining hall where we rubbed shoulders with jockeys and trainers while they fueled up after the morning workouts. The menu was short — there may have been only one option, for all I know. But that first bite of hominy goodness was like unwrapping the first gift on Christmas morning. The biggest surprise: they weren't at all gritty. Just buttery, creamy, and the perfect accompaniment to my fried eggs and bacon.
As it turns out, San Francisco grocery stores aren't too familiar with grits, either, because they only seem to carry the quick-cooking kind. According to My Cousin Vinny, "No self-respecting Southerner uses instant grits." But I'm a California kid, and given my lack of experience, this may have been a fortunate turn of events. And in the end, we cleaned our plates! For the recipe, read on.