When the Grits Trees are in Bloom

Grit Flower

“Giving Northerners unbuttered instant grits is an old remedy for getting rid of tourists.” — Lewis Grizzard, author of “Don’t Sit Under the Grits Tree with Anyone Else But Me.”

You know it’s spring in south and central Georgia when the grits trees are in bloom.

True grits, as the late Atlanta humorist Lewis Grizzard would attest, are not INSTANT: “The idiot who invented instant grits also thought of frozen fried chicken, and they ought to lock him up before he tries to freeze-dry collards.”

After a hearty breakfast of grits and red eye gravy, true Southerners drive south on I-75 through Macon into what was once Stuckeys and pecan praline country toward Tifton where, years ago, Captain Tift once built a saw mill in support of his family’s shipping business.

The captain was also into turpentine, tobacco, pecans, sweet potatoes and grits. Northern historians, thinking grits were made in factories, overlooked Tift’s grit orchards, so you won’t find them in your grade school history books. But those orchards flourish today and every year on March 25, the kind of people who might take exception to freeze-dried collards, head into the lush agricultural lands of Georgia’s coastal plain in search of evergreen trees with large white flowers.

Years before the white man knew there would one day be a Southern state named Georgia, the Apalachee Indians discovered that the natural result of crossing a Live Oak (Quercus virginiana) with a Southern Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) was the Grits Tree (Quercus grandiflora Zea mays).

Like pearls in oysters, Grits are created in the soft tissue of the tree’s magnificent flowers. In the late summer and early fall, Grits fall like rain from the trees where Grits Sweepers gather them into windrows that look like dunes of snow. They dry in the sun until they are ready to be vacuumed up and cast before swine in the form of bacon, ham, and breaded pork chops.

But in the spring, it’s the white grits flowers that attract the attention. The kind of person who would eat freeze-dried collards or who thinks red eye gravy is the airline food served on long, over-night flights, will mistake a grits flower for a magnolia blossom. Magnolias have a musky, cloying scent. Grits flowers smell like Waffle House.

True Grits are in the Bag

“Sitting under the grits tree” is a phrase that goes back to founding of Georgia Grits Day on March 25, 1901 in honor of the birth of Georgia Brown beneath such a tree near Tifton. Sitting under a grits tree is about jazz and having babies and eating red eye gravy on a hot summer afternoon when it seems like every breath of air between Macon and the Florida border smells like breakfast at a Waffle House.

There’s no love better than the love built with true grits. It’s Southern love and you can’t get it in a factory and you won’t find it in the hashed browns part of the country. Every March, we celebrate true grits, not the movie, but the food and all it stands for.

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the satirical novel, “Special Investigative Reporter” on Kindle for about the same amount as a steaming bowl of grits.

Crawford W. Long Museum Included in Civil War Sites Guidebook

The Crawford W. Long Museum in Jefferson is among the 350 historic sites included in Crossroads of Conflict: Guide to Civil War Sites in Georgia from the University of Georgia Press.

The entry, which includes a photograph of the museum’s historic 1858 Pendergrass Store, notes that the facility “honors the physician Crawford W. Long, who attended the University of Georgia where he roomed with Alexander H. Stephens, the future vice president of the Confederacy. Long is credited as the first physician to use ether for surgical purposes.” Long served in the Athens, Georgia Home Guard and as a surgeon for the Confederacy.

Written by Barry L. Brown and Gordon R. Elwell, the Georgia Civil War Commission publication is an expanded update of the 1994 edition of the guidebook. The 304-page new edition, which arranges Georgia sites into nine regions beginning with the Chickamauga Battlefield in the northwest, includes 65 black and white photographs, 190 color photographs and images, and twenty maps.

According to the University of Georgia Press, “The impact of the Civil War on Georgia was greater than any other event in the state’s history. Approximately eleven thousand Georgians were killed and the state suffered more than one hundred thousand in total casualties. Georgia was extremely influential in this nation’s most tragic conflict, and the war touched every corner of the state.”

Born in Danielsville, Georgia, Crawford W. Long (1815-1878) first used ether for surgical anesthesia on March 30, 1842.

“Do a Georgia resident, friend planning a cultural tourism vacation to the South, or student of the Civil War might enjoy this guidebook? If so, click the Share This button below to send a link by email or recommend this post on your favorite social site.”

Coming Attractions on Malcolm’s Round Table

November 17 – An interview with author Vila Spiderhawk
November 21 – Second Annual Blog Jog Day
December 17 – Virtual VHP Dine-a-Round


Hello North Georgia Readers

I’m happy to announce that “Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire” and “The Sun Singer” are both available at the Bookstand of Northeast Georgia in Commerce.

For those of you traveling through the area, that’s at exit 149 on I-85 about 60 miles north of Atlanta.

This bookstore is well organized with hundreds and hundreds of books grouped into easy-to-find categories. Great prices on used books! My books join some other cool books on the LOCAL AUTHORS shelf just a few feet past the register.

The store is on Pottery Factory Drive in Commerce Crossing shopping center, just across the parking lot from OUTBACK STEAK HOUSE.

Buy the book, then read it with a glass of Black Opal Cabernet while waiting for your dinner.