Hominy, Grits, and Chitlin’s…Oh My!

Contributed by my talented friend Toni V. Sweeney~for more on her work please visit:


“Are you hungry?”
“That’s a dangerous question! I might get slapped if I tell the truth!”
“Come on!” She smiled at him and swam toward shore.
“You go ahead,” he told her. “I think I’ll just stand here a minute and compose myself!”
The current chose that moment to change to a chilling cold and that helped considerably.
By the time he got out of the water, everything was back to normal and she’d retrieved the picnic basket from the car and was waiting for him.
“Shall we eat out here or would you rather we went inside and sat at the table?”
“Let’s go inside.” He glanced at her face. “You’re beginning to look just a little pink.”
After changing into his clothes, he came out to find Lindsey in her little green shift and the table set with a small banquet.
“Go ahead, sit down!” As he did so, she spooned potato salad onto a paper plate already heaped with potato chips, two kinds of sandwiches, and a crisp-fried drumstick, and handed him a plastic fork and a paper napkin.
“What–no chit’lins?”
Chit’lins?” She made a face. “Surely you jest!”
“Just what are chit’lins, anyway? This ignorant Yankee wants to know.”
“No, believe me, you don’t!”
“That bad, huh?”
“Worse!” She held out a styrofoam cup.
“Ice-water?” He took the cup from her as he sat down. “Southerners must be the only people in the world who keep pitchers of water in their refrigerators.” He set down the cup. “Dad is always teasing Mom about that. It used to make her furious when he’d drink all the water and leave the empty pitcher in the fridge.”
“We have a rule. Last one to drink fills the pitcher,” Lindsey said.
“So do we,” Logan took a long swallow, adding, “but no one ever follows it.”
“I think maybe you’re more of a Southerner than you realize, Logan Redhawk.”
“With a Southern Mama, how can I help it, Lindsey Conyers?”
“Eat your dinner,” she told him.
“Yes’m! Sho’ ’nuff!”
Lindsey groaned and shook her head. One thing Logan hadn’t inherited from his mother was her accent. His voice was totally Yankee, clipped, and precise.

Logan isn’t the only one who wants to know about Southern food, and so… My blog today is about–ta-da!–some of those oft-ridiculed and most misunderstood of Southern delicacies.

Would anyone like to tell me what chit’lin’s, cracklin’s, and grits are? No volunteers? Is it because no one, outside of a genuine true-blue Southerner knows? They spoken of, laughed about, but hardly anyone North of the Mason-Dixon Line (and nowadays, few below it) know anything about them. So, here it is! The Awful Truth!

Let’s take them in order of importance, shall we:

GRITS: Sometimes called “hominy grits” after the North American Indian words auh(‘u) minea (yes, really!) which was maize hulled and broken and boiled in water and first seen by the English around 1629. Grits is a coarsely ground hominy, boiled and sometimes fried, eaten as a breakfast dish or as a side dish with meats. The word comes from the Old English gryt (900 AD)

A word of warning: grits are never eaten with sugar and milk–only butter and sometimes gravy.

BRUNSWICK STEW: A gustatory delight! A stew that usually contains chicken, rabbit, or squirrel meat cooked with tomatoes, onions, early garden peas, and shoe-peg corn. It appeared around 1850 and is named after Brunswick County in Virginia. A traditional side dish to accompany barbequed pork, which is marinated in sauce rather than basted. Ahhh! (Stop drooling, Toni.)

CHITTERLINGS (CHIT’LIN’S): Something I have never eaten and never intend to! This is the smaller intestines of swine, etc., dredged in flour and deep-fried. It originated around 1200 and comes from a diminutive of Old English cieter, intestines. Wonder if it’s anything like haggis?

CRACKLINGS (CRACKLIN’S): comes from a little higher up on the hog, and is the crisp residue left when fat is rendered, what we today would call pork rinds, but chewy. It derives from a 1540 obslete Dutch word kraeckelingh. Cracklin’s are usually sprinkled into white cornmeal to make “cracklin’ bread hoe cakes” which were originally cooked on the blade of a hoe held over an open blaze, then crumbled into buttermilk and eaten with a spoon.

So now, you know–the secrets are revealed. And, for the piece de resistance: Southern fried chicken:

It’s simple: Dredge cut-up chicken pieces in flour, salt and pepper, and fry in a skillet full of liquid lard, preferably a cast-iron skillet. When crisp and cooked through, pile your plate high with grits and gravy, buttered cracklin’ bread, and a couple of drumsticks, and ENJOY!

Man, that’s finger-lickin’ GOOD!

(Toni V. Sweeney is a true Daughter of the South, having been born in Georgia and lived there for thirty-two years of her life. She’s always regretted leaving.)

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