Chef Clayton Sherrod's shrimp and grits
Yes, grits really is good. I sampled three versions of the best grits in Birmingham recently, prepared in two fabled restaurants, Frank Stitt's Highlands Bar and Grill and Chris and Idie Hastings' Hot and Hot Fish Club, and by the catering firm of a magnificent local chef, Clayton Sherrod.
I'd just ordered the shrimp and grits for dinner at Hot and Hot Fish Club. As Mary Evelyn, our server, moved to the other end of the table, I began raving about the grits I'd had for breakfast that morning at Jones Valley Urban Farm, where Chef Clayton had catered for a group of visiting journalists.
"Chef Clayton's grits," I said, "are the standard by which I'll judge all grits in the future."
My dining companion, an Alabama native, had to differ.
"Grits," she decreed, "is a singular, collective noun that takes a singular verb." Examples followed. "This grits is good," she offered. "Grits is often served at weddings in Alabama." My friend continued, "I was an English major, and I was born in Selma. I know what I'm talking about."
I love this stuff. As a student of descriptive linguistics as well as an obsessively meticulous copy editor, I appreciate every instance where the living language refuses to follow a style guide.
I also love grits, but only when prepared in the best and most proper manner. Chef Clayton gave practical advice: Cook your grits for 20 minutes. If you need more help, watch the film My Cousin Vinnie.
Breakfast by Chef Clayton, served al fresco at Jones Valley Urban Farm