Grits and the Art of Persuasion

I was stirring a giant pot of pasta, and my ten year old told me emphatically that she is “done with pasta.” She’s “had it entirely too much and never EVER wants to eat it again in her entire life!” That’s a pretty big statement to swallow considering she’s the ripe old age of ten and letting go of pasta is like letting go of the color pink. I stared at her as I typically do when either one of the little angels stun me as they’ve been known to do on occasion. (Sometimes I think it would be easier splitting atoms than to decide what to make for dinner. Let alone, switch gears once the dinner idea is already in progress).

She abruptly opens the refrigerator and we both stare blankly, me still with my wooden stirring spoon in hand as if it was a magic wand. My culinary choices were limited, as I’ve resisted the urge to become a slave to the grocery store. I’ve attempted to end the symbiotic relationship. I want food to magically appear.

She states the obvious,  “There’s nothing in there!”

“Schnookums, you’re wrong.” I explain. “There’s a jar of pickles, make that two, some ketchup. Oooh, There’s Mystery Tupperware container! Shall we see what’s in it?”

“Grits! I want grits for dinner!” She exclaims and grabs a box out of the refrigerator door and holds it like a trophy.

Note to self: that’s TWO pots of boiling water. Hmmmm. Cooking has been thrown to the bottom rung of the priority ladder this summer.

Grits is one of those things you’ll always find in my fridge: A big box of Quaker Quick Grits (the 20 minute kind). For some, it’s a tub of sour cream that stakes its territory way in the back. For others, it may be a jar of grape jelly or a half dozen eggs that you just can’t part with even though you have no clue how many months they’ve been in there. You know who you are. For me, it’s a box of grits.

grits

Southern Happy Meal

I think it’s funny (not funny haha) when people ask, “aren’t grits like oatmeal?” Or, “don’t grits taste like cream-of-wheat?” Do oranges taste like bananas? Is NASCAR the same as Formula One? Is the Atlantic the same as the Pacific? Does red wine taste like white wine, people? For the love of GROUND UP CORN, the answer: a resounding NO!

Grits are ground up corn, ‘coarse-ground cornmeal’, plain and simple. (I won’t get into the hominy thing. I’ll keep it reeeeeal simple). They’ve been around for 400 years! Three-fourths of all grits sold in the US are sold in the South stretching from Texas to Virginia. Their warmth and creamy texture are a hug in your tummy-just bowls full of piping hot goodness!

If you’ve not been lucky enough to grow up in the South, I’ll gladly part with some insight, boil it down for you. First, there are two kinds of grits:

1: The ‘instant’ grits which no good Southerner would evah evah cook (or admit to)

2: The boil-in-water-for-twenty-minutes kind. And they come in two shades: white and yellow! According to grits history, white corn was popular in the port cities in the south, while yellow corn was popular in the urban cities.

Here is the simple grits recipe anyone can follow (bless your little non- Southern hearts):

*One cup of grits to five cups of water*

Bring water to a boil, then pour grits in while stirring. Add a pinch or two of salt. Lower the heat and simmer, all the while stirring to prevent clumping. You do NOT want clumpy grits.  After twenty minutes, voila! Now,  throw in butter or cheese, add some country ham, sausage, or red-eye gravy and dare I say…piping hot buttermilk biscuits, (cue gospel choir). There’s just not a better meal, breakfast or suppah! And they’re healthy too! (above additives notwithstanding). No fat, no cholesterol!

(Fun fact: you do not use the term ‘grit’ when referring to this folate fantasy food. It’s always plural! How can we forget ‘My Cousin Vinny’)?

So, Of COURSE she can have her grits! I have indeed raised a Southern child and it warms my heart almost as much as a bowl of grits themselves. After all, how can I possibly say no to her or grits?

 Tammy 

Get Real In The South

Try ’em. You just may like ’em. Would I stir, uhm, steer you wrong?

For some delicious Grits recipes, give this a try:

www.southernliving.com/…/gritsrecipes-…

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Vinny Gambini: How could it take you five minutes to cook your grits when it takes the entire grit-eating world 20 minutes?
Mr. Tipton: Um… I’m a fast cook, I guess.
Vinny Gambini: [across beside the jury] What? I’m sorry I was over there. Did you just say you were a fast cook? Are we to believe that boiling water soaks into a grit faster in your kitchen than any place on the face of the earth?
Mr. Tipton: I don’t know.
Vinny Gambini: Perhaps the laws of physics cease to exist on your stove. Were these magic grits? Did you buy them from the same guy who sold Jack his beanstalk beans?

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Gruet Brut is a crisp, full-bodied, sparkling wine that has light green apple and grape flavors.  Goes perfectly with shrimp-n-grits for a lovely brunch.

Cost: $15.00

Gruet

(Hot)Dog Days of Summer

As if we needed another reason to celebrate summer, July is National Hot Dog Month, recognition for something so great, it’s not just a one-day event; it’s 31 days of pure nitrate goodness. On July 4th weekend alone, over 150 million hot dogs will be downed. That’s enough hot dogs to stretch from Malibu to North Carolina 5 times! And 750,000,000 will be consumed in the U.S. each year! (Los Angeles being the number 1 city).  There’s no denying our love for the pup.

I’m a fan of the hot dog.  It’s entwined in my childhood memories, perhaps my DNA and I’m proud to say that I’ve passed it down to my two daughters. They count down the minutes til we hit our favorite place to get the best hot dog: Trolly Stop in Wrightsville Beach NC.  About the size of a small kitchen, they churn out over 1,000 plump dogs a day in the summer.

The Trolly Stop Wrightsville Beach NC

The Trolly Stop
Wrightsville Beach NC

People wrap around the shack of a building like a giant hug waiting patiently in the hot sun for clearly the best hot dogs on the planet (I’m biased, but right).  What seals the deal is the bun.  The buns are steamed then the hot dogs are carefully laid upon these soft pillows.  Once the condiments adorn them, it’s a matter of minutes before the fireworks go off in your tummy.

553795_10150744611875140_46004845_nI love that there’s an actual National Hot Dog and Sausage Council (NHDSC) a ‘governing body’ that offers insight, statistics, facts, recipes (and more!) about the rolled-up wonder meat. For those of you talented crooners who didn’t make the American Idol cut, there’s Hot Dog Idol! Feel the love and express your admiration in a song. There are no recording contracts, but there is a $250 grand prize to your favorite grocery store to buy what else?  Hot Dogs! Log onto: http://www.hot-dog.org/.

Wanna know what’s in them?  Doesn’t matter! Turn the other cheek er… bun. The pork versions contain everything except the oink. MSG and spice and everything nice. (Just for fun: read the ingredients on your favorite protein bar).

There have been loads of claims on the actual origin of the hot dog.  Germany?  St. Louis? New York?  Let’s just be thankful they did! How much do you love the hot dog?Let’s count the ways. In Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest this 4th of July on Coney Island, Joey “Jaws” Chestnut woofed down 69 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes, his seventh consecutive win.  He’s a real Weiner! Uhm…winner.  And did you know that when King George VI and Queen Elizabeth made their first visit to the United States in 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt welcomed them to his Hyde Park estate by hosting a picnic and served them hot dogs? (wonder if he used this tactic for getting us through the Great Depression and WWII).

Beer has typically accompanied the hot dog on most of its outings.  They look good together. They go together like peas and carrots. But I thought I’d do a little wine pairing with the hot dog- ya’ know, dress it up a bit.

2011 Esperto Pinot Grisio $10

2011 Esperto ville Venetzie
$10

With simple condiments such as mustard, ketchup, perhaps some relish, pair it with a nice cold Pinot Grigio such as the 2011 Esperto ville Venetzie. Its light, delicate notes of mandarin and white peaches compliment and don’t disappoint. It stands up to the tanginess of the mustard. Perfect for the simple dog.

If you’re a fan of chili on your dog, maybe even some onions, try it with the 2010 Francis Coppola Blue Label Merlot.  This Merlot is medium bodied and has multiple layers of fruit flavors, spicy notes, and earthy, mineral nuances.  It won’t compete with the strong taste of the chili and onions.  You’re able to distinguish all the flavors nicely.  I would recommend eating this dog at dinner, maybe on something other than a paper plate.  Light a candle while you’re at it.

2010 Francis Coppola Blue Label Merlot

2010 Francis Coppola
Blue Label Merlot $17

One of my all-time favorite dogs is the Surfer Dog.  It has spicy mustard, melted cheese, and bacon bits sprinkled lightly on top (I’m salivating).  I enjoy this piece of culinary heaven with a 2011 Rodney Strong Sonoma Chardonnay.  This Chardonnay has toasty hints of oak with lemon and apple aromas finishing with pineapple and spice.  It’s a lively chardonnay that brings out the nice smokiness of the bacon bits.

2011 Rodney Strong Chardonnay Sonoma

2011 Rodney Strong Chardonnay Sonoma $15

So whether you call it Perrito Caliente, Chien Chaud, or simply Hot Dog, this iconic snack is imbedded in our hearts (our arteries mostly), and always brings a smile to our faces.

Cheers to Fun in a Bun!  Happy Summer!

Tammy

Edible names are what drives me as a musician. My next band will be called the Hot Dogs. Chad Smith, Drummer, Red Hot Chili Peppers

The pairing of food and wine is a complex and highly inexact science. It is fraught with out-moded rules and a propensity for generalizations. Sid Goldstein, The Wine Lover’s Cookbook

A hot dog at the park is better than steak at the Ritz. Humphrey Bogart

 

Change that Station Now!

I equate life sometimes with listening to a really bad song on the radio.  You’re agitated from the noise, the intensity, the monotonous head- banging clatter. Then something prompts you to change it.  And it’s at that moment you realize just how bad that song was.  You now have peace.  Your body relaxes. What made you listen to it in the first place?  And for so long?

I love analogies.  They have the ability to clarify and simplify the most complicated situations.  Have you stood up close to a Georges Seurat painting?  His beautiful technique of pointillism uses millions of little dots of color to create a masterpiece.  Up close, his Grande Jatte and Circus is just that: millions of tiny dots.  When we stand back, the painting takes shape; becomes real.  We see the big picture, literally! When we stand back from our life, that too takes shape and we notice all nuances, both good and bad.

Seurat's Grande Jatte and Circus

Seurat’s Grande Jatte and Circus

For me, I stood back a few months ago and wow did my eyes open!  I couldn’t believe what I saw before me.  I had answers, clarity.  How had I missed all of this? I had been so close to the situation at hand, I was clouded by what was going on.  All I could see were those little dots.

Next time if you play your music loud, make sure it’s your station.  If you want peace, turn it off.  Marvel at your decision.  And stand back.  Clarity will bring strength.

Tammy

“Darling, when things go wrong in life, you lift your chin, put on a ravishing smile, mix yourself a little cocktail…”― Sophie Kinsella

“There is a secret in our culture, And it’s not that childbirth is painful, It’s that women are strong.”― Laurie Stavoe Harm

folie a' deux

   Wine Pick of the Week:

Folie a’ Deux

2010 Cabernet

Sonoma County

Elegant with layers of fruit and spice

$24

A Simple Act of Kindness

About six months ago, I walked into a small wine shop in Malibu to grab what else? Wine.  I remember how I felt that day, but not why.  Just one of those days the wind was out of my sails and my feet were full of lead.  I wandered down the short aisles aimlessly staring at labels, nothing registering.  A man appeared in front of me and asked if I needed any help.  He may as well have played a Hallmark commercial for me as my eyes welled up and I thought for a moment I was going to break down right there in front of the Bordeaux. It must have appeared that the complexity of choosing a bottle of wine could actually bring a woman to tears.

As I quickly tried to gain my composure, he goes, “Wait.  You like chocolate?” That did it. The puddles of salt water overflowed.  “I-is that a ‘yes’?”  I couldn’t even nod.  In an instant he handed me a giant bar of Godiva and said, “Take this. It’s on the house.” He smiled and I handed him my credit card to pay for a mystery bottle of red that I managed to grab (my priorities were still in tact even if my emotions weren’t). I choked back more tears and whispered, “Thank you.”

I felt lighter when I left. It wasn’t the wine. It wasn’t the chocolate.  It was the fact that a stranger went out of their way to be nice.  And I’ve thought of it ever since.

I’ve gone back in the wine shop a few times since but never saw him again.

Tammy

“A bottle of good wine, like a good act, shines ever in the retrospect.”                           Robert Louis Stevenson

Educated Guess wne 

Wine tip of the week:                                                                                     Educated Guess Cabernet                                                                   Napa Valley 2011  $22                                                                             Rich and complex for the money