Grits ain't groceries
3 out of 10 Southerners haven't tried them
As recently as last Christmas, Brittany Schock of Shelby, Ohio had never tasted a grit.
She sized up the servings of shrimp-and-grits on a grazing table assembled for her office holiday party and knew right away that she’d rather stick to dips and cheeses. After all, she wasn’t sure what grits were made of, but they sounded more like a road crew supply than something she’d buy at the supermarket.
Based on the name, “I was trying to imagine gravel in my mouth,” says the 33-year-old solutions journalist, who prefers the blunt comforts of coffee and cats.
Her employer’s caterer had taken a big swing that night. Research by Datassential suggests nearly half of Schock’s colleagues have led similarly grits-free lives, with 46 percent of Midwestern consumers reporting they’ve never tried them. Shockingly, 32 percent of Southerners said the same.
At least I was shocked when I heard the stats. Mike Kostyo of Datassential doesn’t think there’s anything surprising about the nation’s grits abstention.
“With them being on relatively few menus—4.8 percent in the Midwest, 12.4 percent in the South—I guess it's fairly easy to miss out on trying them,” he wrote in an e-mail providing the latest numbers. “Though it’s at 1,401 out of 4,165 foods in our database, so a lot more people have had grits than many other foods.”1
Other subject matter experts were equally blasé. “That’s pretty much what I expect after my experience, sure, yeah,” Robert Stehling, the longtime owner of shrimp-and-grits powerhouse Hominy Grill in Charleston, said when I tried to scandalize him with the findings.
Apparently, grits are another victim of capitalism, with working-class eaters turned off by the bland instant sludge promoted as compatible with their schedules, and one-percenters showing more interest in cream, cured ham, and caviar than the stoneground corn to which they’re sometimes applied.
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