Arts & Culture

A Timeline of Modern Grits History

Grits are a mainstay in Southern cuisine, and over the decades, they’ve also been an important part of Southern pop culture. Here, eight great grits highlights


1969

The Mississippi blues singer Little Milton wailed, If I don’t love you, baby / Grits ain’t grocery /  Eggs ain’t poultry / And Mona Lisa was a man in his 1969 hit love song Grits Ain’t Groceries.


1974

A jealous lover of soul music legend Al Green poured a pot of boiling grits on the singer while he was bathing at his home in Memphis, an incident that some believe led him to reconsider his path in life. He became a pastor two years later. In a G&G column, Julia Reed explored grits’ darker side, including that episode.


1976

The phrase “Kiss my grits!” became not only the tagline of Alabama native Florence Jean “Flo” Castleberry of the CBS show “Alice,” but a catchall Southern comeback.


1977

President Jimmy Carter’s daughter Amy received the gift of Grits, a Border Collie-mix puppy born on the same day her father won the presidential election. 


1980

The longtime Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist and humoristLewis Grizzard wrote an explainer column about grits “for folks from New Jersey and places like that,” beginning his origin story of grits by speculating that, “Cherokee Indians, native to the Southern region of the United States, first discovered grits trees growing wild during the 13th century.”


1986 

St. George, South Carolina, hosted the first World Grits Festival after the local Piggly Wiggly manager learned that the tiny town ate more grits per capita than anywhere else on the planet. Today, the festival features the Rolling in the Grits contest, when competitors attempt to adhere as many grits to their bodies and clothing as possible.

Courtesy of the World Grits Festival

1988

In season three of “Designing Women,” Julia Sugarbaker called a New York editor, outraged after he published a piece claiming that Southerners eat dirt. When she rattled off a list of what southerners do eat, she opened, naturally, with grits.


1992

In the movie My Cousin Vinny, after reluctantly eating grits in an Alabama diner and learning that they take twenty minutes to cook, New York lawyer Vinny Gambini relied on his newly acquired Southern cooking knowledge to challenge a defendant who claimed “no self-respecting Southerner uses instant grits” and then said he cooked his grits in five minutes.


MORE: THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO GRITS


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