Saturday, October 24, 2009


As I have posted several times I am a great Friend of Canada and have many close Friends of that Ilk. I am an American citizen though my Best Friend is a dual citizen as are her two children.

I spent a lot of time in Canada during my early business years and have played both the national games of Canada - Hockey and Lacrosse - with some facility. I don’t look upon Canada as the United States’ 51st state and recognize her unique culture and perspectives. I haven’t taken offense with, rather celebrated her greatness and the differences in our two countries – at least not until recently (more later).

Some of my Canadian Friends like to point out how they are different and some have used the US as their anvil. They don’t want to emulate the US, rather embrace and expand on their differences. No problem. The Canadian political system is different, they are mostly a hell of a lot colder, they don’t have to wait until they are 21 to legally drink, they have better beer and doughnuts, they are laudably much greener than we are, generally labor unions are more popular in Canada and, of course, they have that health care system we seem bent on emulating.

Two of my favorite magazines are Canadian National Geographic and Canadian Living. The November 2009 issue of Canadian Living is another superb offering. Being a big fan of food in all its myriad forms, I occasionally note their recipes which generally take on a literal north of the border flavor. It is with one of those recipes that I have taken offense…

In the Deep South we have our, yea, iconic culinary institutions and that includes their gastronomic offerings representative of Memphis, Tennessee; Atlanta, Georgia; Charlotte, North Carolina; Savannah, Georgia; Charleston, South Carolina; New Orleans, Louisiana and all the other Southern towns around and in between. Meal times can be significant social events and can include Low Country Shrimp Boils, She Crab Soup, Pork Bar-B-Que, Cajun, Southern Buttermilk Biscuits, Southern Fried Chicken and much, much more.

Well you see this Canadian Living “Deep South” recipe (Ontario?) called for milk, water, yellow cornmeal, salt and pepper, shredded old cheddar cheese and butter, period. These base ingredients were somewhat familiar recalling a recipe I know.

Simplicity aside, my recipe includes all the above and can depending on mood and circumstance also incorporate a small diced onion, finely chopped garlic cloves, vegetable or chicken broth, extra sharp cheddar and Jack cheese (important), heavy cream, kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Of course, we are known to spice things up by also adding to taste: bourbon, cider vinegar, sorghum or molasses, honey, Tabasco Sauce®, thyme, cilantro, cayenne pepper, olive oil and to make things more interesting, maybe some shrimp, thick sliced center cut bacon, salt cured country ham or sausage - most of those with a sumptuous red eye gravy. The cornmeal should be stone ground and of a coarse (not fine) consistency.

The Canadian Living recipe was for – ready? – Cheddar Cornmeal Porridge where you can, “treat your family to a taste of the Deep South for breakfast.” Revolting! This recipe title is a sacrilege to the South and while it technically might be a porridge, it ain’t! We of the South have never and wouldn’t ever call this porridge. One of my heroines, Chef Paula Deen, would surely take equal offense with this excuse of a recipe title.

Porridge (porage) for you Canadian folks out there means oats. In Scotland porage (oats) is so popular they have a culinary event known as the Golden Spurtle for the best porage recipe. As an aside, I am proud to say that the 2009 winner of the Golden Spurtle World Porridge Making Championships was one Matt Cox of Milwaukie, Oregon for his pear brandy-infused Oregon Orchard Oat Brulee recipe. Again, so much for simplicity. We note that Matt defeated fourteen other competitors (several Canadians) in the event, including last year's champion, Ian Bishop from Carrbridge, Scotland. We of the Might of Right are also pleased to recognize Anna-Louise Batchelor from Reading, England as the first place Spurtle winner in the specialty category for her recipe of steamed porridge Spotted Dick with custard. You bet, really!

So we aren’t talking about porridge when we engage our cornmeal recipe. Drum roll – yes, this is all about GRITS! Please also know that while grits are often served as a breakfast side dish they aren’t just for breakfast. They can also be served at the dinner meal and are very often incorporated into a casserole. And, please do not forget about hominy grits, but that’s another whole story.

In 1976, South Carolina declared grits their official state food and I would not attempt to improve on the words of the South Carolina Legislature when they offered that proclamation. They spoke for all of us…

“Whereas, throughout its history, the South has relished its Grits, making them a symbol of its diet, its customs, its humor, and its hospitality, and whereas, every community in the State of South Carolina used to be the site of a grist mill and every local economy in the State used to be dependent on its product; and whereas, Grits have been a part of the life of every South Carolinian of whatever race, background, gender, and income; and whereas, Grits could very well play a vital role in the future of not only this State, but also the world, if as The Charleston News and Courier proclaimed in 1952: 'An inexpensive, simple, and thoroughly digestible food, [grits] should be made popular throughout the world. Given enough of it, the inhabitants of planet Earth would have nothing to fight about. A man full of [grits] is a man of peace.'”

By the way, President Obama likes and eats Grits, not porridge and I suspect some Canadians do as well.


Ned Buxton

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