Grits: A Cultural & Culinary Journey Through the South

Erin Byers Murray. St. Martin’s, $28.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-250-11607-9
Nashville food writer Murray (Shucked) brings depth and flavor to the background of this quintessential Southern dish. She notes that tracing the history of grits, as with many other Southern dishes, “will uncover stories of theft, slavery, appropriation, and loss.” She describes grits as cheap and simple nourishment during the Civil War years, when “people in every class were eating grits—and enslaved Africans were usually the ones preparing them.” Murray then brings the story to the 20th century, when the “mass-produced, flavorless” corn porridge goop of the postwar years was revitalized by “true grit-slingers” such as Glenn Roberts, who developed heirloom grit varieties, and Delta Grind, a Mississippi grit-grinding operation now run by a 26-year-old woman named Julia Tatum, who worked at a marketing firm during the day, but milled at night until her business took off. Murray anchors much of the book around vivid portraits of these scrappy entrepreneurs, and includes grit-based recipes throughout, including creamy grits, black skillet corn bread, and scrapple. By the 1990s, Murray writes, grits started showing up on menus served with high-end ingredients, “due to the reinterpretation of the dish by a handful of affluent, white, male chefs.” Murray’s enlightening culinary tour will be of great interest to foodies and students of Southern history and culture. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 07/30/2018
Release date: 11/06/2018
Genre: Nonfiction
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