Wednesday, January 11, 2006

True Grits

So, grits. At San Francisco's Just for You ("the best Louisiana truck stop on Potrero Hill") they're described on the menu as "that white stuff you ate in prison." At the Waffle House*, they're what comes with your eggs and Coca-Cola** on Christmas morning, when it's just you and K. and a bunch of cops drinking coffee, plus the cheery waitstaff, cheery because hopefully they're making extra cash working on a holiday while you're reading the laminated menu with all the pictures as one of the waitresses feeds quarters into the jukebox, yelling back to the kitchen "You sure she wants ten dollars' worth?"

The best grits I've ever had, though, happened in my very own Yankee kitchen, thanks to K slow-cooking them first and then mixing in some grated Irish cheddar, a shake of cayenne pepper and, after ransacking my spice rack, a brick-red spoonful of smoked paprika, from a little red tin bought ages ago at a Spanish-food stall in London's Borough Market. Smoked paprika, also called pimenton, is the bomb, especially for vegetarians who want to fake a smoky bacon flavor. But I'd never have thought to put it in grits. That's why it's good to rub up against other people's cooking: they know stuff you don't. Hopefully, these grits will happen again this weekend, when K. returns, or at least some variation on them. If we get around to leaving the house (to go see the gay cowboys or the butterflies swatting around the Museum of Natural History) we might even check out the oyster po-boys at South, the new incarnation of Blue Star on Court Street.

*Despite my deep fondness for waffles, I didn't know what a Waffle House was til we hit Georgia. What diners are to New Jersey, Waffle Houses are to the South: all-night greasy spoons out on the highway, where you go for eggs and toast late at night or early in the morning, with a lot of drinking behind you or driving ahead of you. Alas, the waffles, at least at the one we went to, were flat and gummy. But as K. pointed out, it's not about the waffles at a Waffle House.

**K. had the Coke, by the way. I had coffee.

Now, back to work, and the all-important question: will Shifra and her beau want a plastic bride and groom on the top of their vegan no-wheat almond-lemon wedding cake? The recipe testing continues...counting down for the big day, back in SF next week...

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