Grits: A Family Dish


On a recent trip to Florida, my family and I visited many restaurants and tried a lot of new foods. I was surprised to see my two boys scarf down steamed oysters like they were French fries and we all loved the alligator bites and the giant coconut shrimp. But the most eventful meal of the week came from an unassuming restaurant, Cracker Barrel.

We had a big day planned and started with a little breakfast. I had never been to a Cracker Barrel restaurant and I was really in the mood for some ordinary breakfast fare. I noticed that all of the combination breakfasts came with grits…something none of us had ever tried. I was apprehensive but went ahead and placed the order because the rest looked great.

When the food arrived, I decided to be the first to try the grits. It looked a little plain, but not too unfamiliar. I took a small bite and was pleasantly surprised at the texture and flavor…a little starch is nothing new to this Wisconsinite! I loudly crowed about how good the grits were. Then I offered them to everyone else. We all liked them but not nearly as much as saying the word…”GRITS!” We started to joke around, making a huge fuss over the grits in our worst faux-southern drawl. “Pass me some more of dem grits!”…“Y’all git yer own grits…these grits are mine!” The audience at the surrounding tables watched with little amusement but we continued without shame. I’d say, “We’s eatin’ grits,” and they would politely nod like you would to any other nutcase in a public place. We were 1,500 miles from home and nobody here would ever see us again…although they probably still talk about us.

When the grits were gone, I moved to the biscuits and gravy. But I was confused as to why there were two bowls of gravy. I asked my wife about it and she had no clue. They were different in look and texture so she tried them both. Then she pointed to the second bowl and said, “I think those are the grits.”

We had just spent the last ten minutes making a huge scene eating ordinary Cracker Barrel hash brown potatoes…while loudly boasting about our love of grits.

(photo courtesy of Michael Ballard/