History of Grits – Rags to Riches Story

There is evidence that corn was being milled as far back as 8700 BC in South America. It is not a stretch to also believe that they mixed it with water and heated it to form a sort of porridge. Hence are the beginning of a very storied food, now referred to as grits, polenta, cornmeal mush, and other phrases depending upon the region using it.

From there it travelled around the world via the Spanish and the Portuguese who settled in South America, to Europe, Africa and further east. However, the special way of treating the corn, then milling it which produced an edible and nutritious meal, stayed within the Americas.

Grits as we know it today originated with the indigenous people in America, passed on to the European settlers, and later taken on by slaves throughout the South. A bowl of grits or porridge was prevalent in slave kitchens and eaten by both the slaves and their owners.

Grits is the ultimate comfort food, taking on the flavors of whatever region uses it. But today chefs around the world have incorporated this comfort food into a culinary art form, with such dishes as shrimp and grits, grits and grillade, and more.

Below is a brief timeline of the history of grits. Interested in learning more? Check out this book by Erin Byers Murray, “Grits: A Cultural and Culinary Journey Through the South”.