With one bowl of grits, a new day dawns!

Breakfast of the gods, at a diner in New Jersey!
Breakfast of the gods, at a diner in New Jersey … finally!

Probably the most difficult thing about moving to New Jersey some 20 years ago was the sudden absence of the delicious foods I grew up with, and the substitution of dishes — like ziti and bagels — that had me asking, “Why would anybody want to eat this crap?”

Growing up, we traveled a lot, but mostly in a westerly direction. And although there were certainly culinary differences between, say, Colorado and Texas, the differences weren’t so drastic that you felt like you were on a different planet. All that changed with our move to New Jersey, which made the migration of a paltry 1,600 miles seem more like a 1,692,662,530-mile move from Earth to Uranus.

So imagine my shock this morning when I opened the menu at our local diner and spotted a new entry: Bowl Of Grits.

Oh sweet and holy Jesus, I can’t believe it! After 20 years, I can finally have grits for breakfast again, and right here in my hometown diner!

Don’t know about grits? Here’s the dictionary definition:

grits |ɡrits|
pl.noun [ also treated as sing. ] US
a dish of coarsely ground corn kernels boiled with water or milk.
• coarsely ground corn kernels from which grits are made.

Grits are a southern staple, and just might be the poster child for all the hard-to-find Texas foods in New Jersey. Not only were they tough to find, the very subject of grits is usually met with scorn. Now how could anybody hate grits? Add plenty of melted butter, a dash of black pepper, and you’ve got the gooey breakfast food of the gods!

You know, it’s just sad. I remember an office party several years ago, and I grilled some smoked sausage and onions and took it in. Let me tell you, the yankees went crazy for it. “Oh my god, how did you make this? It’s soooo delicious, I have to have the recipe!”

“Well,” I said, “There really isn’t a recipe, you just buy some sausage links, throw ‘em on the grill and burn ‘em a little.”

“Wait, you mean that’s it? There isn’t any, like, tomato sauce?”

“Uh, no, it’s just smoked sausage and onions, Texas style.”

“Oh my god, it’s soooo good!”

Texas brisket. Hard to find in New Jersey, unless I make it myself.
Texas brisket. Hard to find in New Jersey, unless I make it myself.
Chicken-fried steak ala Texas. A New Jerseyan would ask, "Why's it called CHICKEN fried?"
Chicken-fried steak ala Texas. A New Jerseyan would ask, “Why’s it called CHICKEN fried?”

See, the thing is, a lot of these people up here just haven’t been exposed to good eatin’, and are suspicious of things that don’t have a hint of the Eye-talian. It’s unnatural to me that they’d turn up their noses at a chicken-fried steak, slathered with cream gravy, or a huge steaming mess of black-eyed peas, but they do.

Puffy tacos. Can't find 'em in New Jersey.
Puffy tacos. Can’t find ’em in New Jersey.

I remember a different party we hosted years ago that had a Texas theme. We had a huge pot of pinto beans boiling on the stove, swirled with chunks of ham, onions and jalapeños. Someone asked about the “soup,” and we told them it was beans. You’d have thought we’d laid a turd in the middle of the kitchen floor. “Beans? Beans??? You expect us to eat beans??????”

Okay, pal, don’t eat ’em, leaves more for us! Why don’t you head on back home, and maybe stop and pick up some ziti on the way!

But grits in my local diner? Be still, my heart! This gives me hope for the future! If New Jersey is finally warming up to grits, maybe I’ll soon be able to find some of the other delicious foods that are nowhere to be found in this benighted state, foods like Tex-Mex enchiladas, black-eyed peas and puffy tacos.

One can only hope!

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29 Comments

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  1. One food down, a zillion to go. But I am happy for you!

    Can you get dried grits up there to make them yourself?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I CAN RELATE! Have yet to find grits in the Seattle area – even in the grocery store. Same with BBQ – hard to find anything that compares to Kansas City. What I miss most from Texas was the Mexican food.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Came across on this article through Susan; it is well written and had me l a laughing up a storm. I am forwarding it to my son; a borned and raised Texan who can very well relate to what you have written. He and his family are currently living in New Jersey and they are adjusting to the absence of Tex-Mex food. After nearly 17 years of living in Georgia, I am also still missing Texas food, but at least I am still in the “South” and have learned to enjoy “Grits” even more so.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. But the question is: were they any good?!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I moved from Texas to Albany, NY, in the mid-80s. My neighborhood grocery store had two entire aisles of Italian food. Over by the butcher counter, off to the side, there was a tiny corner shelf of “Mexican food,” including flat cans of flour tortillas from Ohio. My repulsion never overcame my curiosity, so I never tried them. Do they still have those? Or did they come to their senses?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I only had grits once, when I lived in Washington, DC. I hated them, but someone told me later they hadn’t been made properly and that I would love real Southern grits if I tried them. Never had the opportunity.

    I did, however, love the chicken fried steak – with gravy, as you say.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m so intrigued about grits now! Are they sweet or savoury? Can they be either? Now I need to find out if I can get them in Scotland 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Grits are actually kind of bland. It’s a warm, gloopy kind of stuff, the same sort of texture as oatmeal, I guess. Most of the taste comes from adding butter, salt and pepper. It’s comfort food, if that’s what you’re used to! Some people in the Deep South add cheese, and then you have *drum roll* cheese grits! Good luck finding it! There are instant grits and grits you have to cook and cook. I’d get the instant kind for starters, if you can find it!

      Liked by 2 people

  8. I love Tex-Mex food and every once in a while cook chilli con carne and chicken tortilla soup. Yum! I’ve never tried grits though. They look like mushy couscous. Do they taste like mushy couscous?

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Congratulations on finding decent grits in Jersey. Now if you can find some genuine chorizo to stir in there, you’ll be all set. Grits are great. Cheese grits are even better. And cheese grits with shrimp, like they’re served at Babin’s Seafood on Gessner Road here in Houston, are just this side of heaven on a plate. (And yes, I know that’s more of a Cajun dish than Texan, but it’s still the South.)

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Great post. The food I missed when I came to Germany, was the great British breakfast – bacon, sausage, eggs, black pudding and Roast beef with Yorkshire pudding. It’s making me hungry just thinking about it. Glad you finally got your grits 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • How is it that I thought you lived in the U.S. before migrating to Germany? Now I guess you were a Brit! Well, anyway, I guess it’s tough to leave behind the things you grew up with, no matter where that might have been. I hope you find your black pudding and Yorkshire pudding!

      Like

  11. Janice Carter Brown June 10, 2016 — 11:46 pm

    Glenn, I don’t know about your neck of the woods in Jersey, but down by me all the diners serve grits. It’s a staple in these parts. We grew up on grits and still eat grits. Happy eating and glad to see that your local diner is finally on board.

    Liked by 1 person

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