Artist Conference Network

Doesn’t everyone have a favorite grits story?

My fondest grits memory is from a moment at age 8 when I saw my first grits tree in bloom. Delicate pale yellow blossoms gracefully cascaded down limber slender shoots extending from the sturdy central trunk. This was a mature grits tree in a grove of 100 sister trees. Such a sight has been known to make even the most weathered farmer grow misty eyed.

Um, ahhh…the aroma! The sweetness has not been captured by skilled aroma therapists nor imitated by the finest perfumers, although they have tried! Each spring during the peak of blossoms the AAT (Association of Aroma Therapists) descends on the grove like the hungry happy bees and butterflies who dwell there. The scientists observe, measure, take samples of flowers, bark, and even soil….to no avail.

The blossoms begin to appear in late February on the trees located at the southern tip of the grove and the blooms last until late July to the delight of locals and tourists alike who picnic on the ground under the beautiful branches. From August to December is harvest time. The millions of blooms lead to a seemingly endless bounty of perfect grains.

The gypsy harvesters are the next group of people to join the birds and animals in the grove. One of the best techniques for harvesting grits is used by the pagan gypsies. Four harvesters spread out under the heavily laden branches and hold colorful fine meshed nets while a fifth gypsy drums against the trunk. The steady rhythm causes a shower of golden grits to fall into the nets. The drumbeats echo across the land signally all near and far that the most joyous time of year has arrived.

Each day of harvest is followed by a night of feasting. Each tribe within the gypsies prepares a bubbling pot of grits and each adds a unique flavorful enhancement. The low country tribe adds shrimp, the tribe from the southern seashore adds fish, dairy tribes fold in cheese and cream. The farmer tribes stir in garlic, onions, and peppers with a garnish of avocado. One tribe that travels each year from across the ocean concocts a wonderful fusion spiced with a special blend of exotic spices. Visitors from every continent on Earth (and a few undocumented intergalactic travelers) join the celebration and wander from campfire to campfire sampling grits.

At the end of each evening, adorned in their finest costumes (some fashioned to mimic the trees in bloom, some like bees, others as birds, and still others as field mice and squirrels) the gypsies dance and sing and make merry music. Sated and smiling, all finally drift off to dreams of tomorrow.

Donna Rutherford