Home comforts

It’s been raining for what feels like days here in the Lower Cape Fear. The gray winter skies opened up some time last week and it’s still coming down — a cold, bone-chilling rain that soaks you in a matter of minutes and sticks around as a damp ache in creaky joints no matter how you attempt to warm up. I spent most of my Valentine’s afternoon grading essays, curled up in a chair at my parents’ house, listening to the constant drizzle.

I could go on about how much I’ve come to hate long-term winter rains, especially now that old injuries flare up in the midst of such seasons. One might think I’d be used to them by now given the years I spent in Scotland. We had our own jokes about whether the precipitation was a “wet” rain or a “dry” rain (if you know, you know). And of course the weather would be deemed properly driech. On the coldest, darkest, wettest days when I lived in Fife, I did long for sunnier skies. I also learned to love the opportunity for a warm cup of tea, a dram of whiskey, or a hearty meal.

One of the meals that has always been my go-to comfort food for the coldest days or the days I feel the worst is grits and eggs. Simple and straightforward. They were a staple in my grandmothers’ kitchens and in my mother’s kitchen as I grew up in North Carolina. When I could only just talk, they were “gris-eggs.” They were also one of the first foods I learned how to cook myself and I prefer they are accompanied by a piece of toast with butter and grape jelly. Grits are a good and proper stick-to-your-ribs kind of dish and grits can be a “carrier,” if you will, for all manner of things. A breakfast with eggs, bacon, or sausage. Shrimp and grits. Fish and grits. Grillades and grits. You name it. For heavens sake, though, DO NOT ADD SUGAR. On another note: grits ≠ hominy.

A bowl of grits and greens rests on a blue-ticked towel.

In Scotland, I was not exactly in the best situation for tracking down this notoriously southern grain. Oat porridge, yes. Grits, no. Lucky for me, I lived near a university town with a large American student population and a Tesco grocery store that had a rather eclectic “American” foods section. It looked like every all-night-studier, hung-over American student’s junk food dream, with a price tag to match. Every once in a while I’d take stock of the aisle that housed these odd relics of Americana and eventually spotted them — the navy blue box with the ubiquitous Quaker man cheerfully smiling back. But they were instant packets. I wasn’t about to insult my grandmamas with that.

When I ended up with a cold over that first year, I finally caved and bought the £5 box of instant grits. It’s often one of the few things I can stomach when I don’t feel well. Whipping up a dish of grits, a fried egg over medium, and just the right amount of butter, salt, and pepper while standing in my kitchen that overlooked the North Sea sent me right back home. You better believe that the next time I visited Wilmington I prioritized packing a five pound bag of grits in my suitcase — for emergencies, you know. I carried that bag of grits with me through two moves as well, savoring any time I chose to indulge in them.

This evening I walked back into my kitchen without much of a dinner plan. I needed something quick and already on hand. You’ve probably guessed it by now. A chill in my bones from driving home in the rain, an apartment that needed warming up, and a need for an easy dinner option made grits and eggs my prime choice. I sat down with my piping hot bowl and decided to write.

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