Food’s place in civilization and throwing down on a bowl of hot buttered grits

by Angela Perez, a tortured grits-eating Southerner

Photo courtesy of Bojangle’s Facebook page

“…a radical approach to food’s place in civilization would require the whole range of food’s social uses to be considered.” – Mary Douglas
Sometimes, writing about grits and biscuits for breakfast (well, I eat grits any time all day long) is agony for me because I cannot tell the whole tale. And sometimes I just want you to be in the moment with me, sharing the joy of the flavor and texture. But I am always mulling over the fact that food is ALWAYS a profound intersection of personal and social history, whether we are conscious of this intersection or not. At the same time, some days it just boils down to a girl’s gotta eat to live and wants to throw down on her favorite foods. Like grits and biscuits and cornbread and collard greens with fatback and cracklin’ cornbread, and so on and so forth. What’s essential and what is authentic to the Southern table? Can we ever reconcile all this feel good and “welcome to my table” business of the Southern kitchen with the often brutal history that led to the traditions of that same Southern table? Maybe not.

And yes, while I am humming and singing as I eat fried lacy cornbread slathered in butter, I think of forces of race, class, gender, politics, sexual orientation, religion and so on and so forth that influence the foods that I eat and dictate what qualifies as traditional in the Southern food canon. And while I do know that along with big money great restaurants often will follow, I also lament how gentrification and suburbanization often nudge out beloved neighborhood eateries.

All these thoughts are swirling around in my mind this morning because I am craving a sausage biscuit and grits from Bojangles. Why cain’t I just allow myself to get my breakfast with no muss and no fuss? Without contemplating how this bowl of grits got into my hands and why grits are part of traditional Southern cuisine?
Anyway, I’m getting the grits.

Fan art for Duke’s mayo, “Camille’s Grandmother Loved Duke’s Mayonnaise and Costume Jewelry”

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