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From the Pastor Who “Didn’t Cook:” Glorious Cheese Grits

October 25, 2014

When you are the female pastor of a church, do you bring a dish for the potluck meal? I mean it seems too much to ask, right? You not only get to spend your weekend gearing up for the sometimes harried/stressful chief event of your work week: Sunday morning worship, you have to prepare something good for a potluck. You should be able to just go and sit down afterwords and enjoy the meal without worrying about bringing a dish, right? I mean that’s what male pastors would do, wouldn’t they?

P1060599Cheese grits, ready to go to a potluck

If you were Ann Held (now retired as pastor of my church, Trinity Presbyterian) you not only preached the sermon, you brought a dish, partly because your daughters loved your trademark dish so much they begged you to bring it. It also “made” the potluck for many of us. We’d clean out Ann’s lovely pottery casserole dish of cheese grits before half the line went through; if you were later in line, too bad.

What is so good about these cheese grits? It’s like mac and cheese only smoother; like a breakfast souffle only easier. This recipe has just a pinch of Tabasco sauce fire and some seasoning salt pizzazz, not even hot enough to register, but just nice.

I love plain grits, too, which I sang the praises of here. Wikipedia says that 75 percent of all grits sold are in the south, from Texas to Virginia. We’re in Virginia.


In my book, Whatever Happened to Dinner, I describe grits for the unaccustomed:

Grits come from hominy—what’s left from a kernel of corn after the yellow “cap” has been taken off. The dictionary describes grits as ground hominy with the germ removed. They are low in fat and sodium but have a decent amount of iron, all for only pennies a serving—a cheap and filling breakfast that sticks to your ribs. Grits can be eaten by people with allergies to wheat flour. Cheese grits is a variation on the basic dish and can be served as a meat substitute.

I will remind naysayers that cheese grits scores in the nutrition department because the combo of grain (corn) + milk (cheese) = a more complete protein when they are consumed together. That’s according to nutritionist Doris Janzen Longacre, author of the best selling More with Less Cookbook.

When I took this dish to a staff special break recently, someone called it comfort food. The ones who spoke up, said they loved the dish. I’m sure there were some who tasted it only to be polite.

So if you want something tasty for a brunch, lunch or even dinner, here’s the recipe. They take an hour to bake so unless you mix it up the night before, I personally would never have time to make them for breakfast but, you never know.

P1060595(Yes, it takes a lot of cheese. You could probably cut back and not notice.)

Ann Held’s Cheese Grits

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Boil 6 cups of water with ½ teaspoon salt. Add 1½ cup quick-cooking grits. Bring to a boil, then lower flame and cook until water is absorbed, about 6-7 minutes.

P1060596Stirring in the seasoning salt, butter, eggs, and cheese.

Stir in:
1 stick butter or margarine
1 pound grated sharp cheddar cheese
3 eggs, beaten lightly
2 teaspoons Lawry seasoning salt
5–6 drops Tabasco sauce

Pour into a greased 2 quart casserole or 9×13-inch baking dish. Bake 1 hour. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Other suggestions from my book: Serve alongside the Barbeque Spareribs or Pork Chops in chapter 3 of Whatever Happened to Dinner or the Chicken BBQ (also in the book). Or try them with some spicy Cajun or steamed shrimp, which is one way grits became fashionable in fancy restaurants in New Orleans sometime in the 1980s, according to my colleague Beth Nealon.

P1060609The last serving.


So what do you think: if you are the pastor of a church, do you need to bring a dish to the church potluck, or do you get a free pass as an “employee”? Does it make a difference if you are male or female? If you are married and a pastor, does your spouse make the dish? If you are not a pastor, what have you observed in your church? What do you think the apostle Paul would do???

  1. Alice Risser permalink

    Why should you being the pastor exempt you from bringing a dish? A potluck is not a “women ” thing it is a “member”., or attendee thing. In our church I think we have almost as many male cooks as female cooks and there are two men on the kitchen committee.Sunday school teachers, choir directors, worship leaders etc also have responsibilities on Saturday evening/Sunday morning but you aren’t exempting them

    • Athanasia permalink

      So agreed, Alice. We have plenty of widowers and single men that bring a dish to the potlucks. All of our pastors are men and married. The wives bring a dish, and always seem to help too, that I can remember. Our previous youth pastor used to have a chili cook off as a fund raiser and his contribution was a crock pot of canned from the grocer. He never won, naturally, but still raised some just-in-fun money for the youth. We have potlucks once a month on Sundays. Occasionally a few more for other special reasons. We also don’t make people bring a dish to attend….visitors are invited to stay without obligation and then there are those families that just manage on what they have day to day without having to come up with a potluck dish. No questions asked, no judgements. We’ve never run out of food.

      • I love your many potluck examples and stories. The spirit of your congregation is great–we don’t have potlucks that often but visitors are always invited no matter what and those who’ve forgotten are certainly included. I don’t understand my own mom who feels judged if she doesn’t bring something homemade. We tell her, at 90, to just bring a bag of chips or a store bought pie, but she adamantly contends that she would NEVER do that, she’d rather eat by herself at home. And she is a VERY social kind of gal–always talking, always connecting. I don’t know why she can’t feel okay taking prepared veggies from a deli or whatever. But that’s mom and a different generation. It has to be homemade.

    • Good answer, Alice!! Thanks for “feeding” in!

  2. I never heard of cheese grits until I moved to the South. Thanks for the recipe but I’ll pass. Ha!

    You pose a provocative question about pastoral obligations regarding potluck. I don’t think the gender of the pastor makes any difference. The spouse, man or woman, could bring a dish or not. I would never pass judgment on a pastor in that regard. In many small churches, the pastor also has a counseling and hospital visiting ministry in addition to preparation for worship services.

    Members who have the spiritual gift of hospitality can make up the difference. Pastors, like Ann Held who had a signature dish, are the exception.

  3. I was kind of being tongue-in-cheek with my initial question, (not so much the sign off questions, I thought those were worth discussion, so thanks!) but truly I feel a pastor has enough on his or her hands preparing for worship that I would not expect either a male or female pastor to bring a dish. So it always felt like going above and beyond for Ann to also bring a beloved dish. The comments on Ann’s own Facebook page as she shared this post–especially from past members who have long moved away–and remember the dish and fun so warmly–was worth my time for this writing.

    So pass on the grits (I’ll pass on your pig stomach recipe. 🙂 ) And thanks for chiming in, Marian. I’m sure I never paid attention before, to whether a pastor of any gender actually contributed to a potluck meal.

  4. That dish looks very good to me and would make my (Virginia native) husband even happier. We just returned from Holmes County, Ohio, and happen to have quite a stock of cheese in the fridge. . . .

  5. Any good sharp cheese works well. I halved the recipe for my recent trial and it worked fine; I think you could even shave back on the butter & cheese and still have a tasty dish.

  6. Athanasia permalink

    Melodie, this is in reply to your reply to mine above, but there wasn’t a button to click. Your mother sounds a lot like mine, though I think mine would go anyways as she would not want to miss out on the social aspect. But shortly after she moved into her senior apartment in town she called at about 9 p on a Saturday, in a panic. Tomorrow was potluck Sunday and she had shopped all the ingredients for her “signature dish”, but when she packed up to move there she had neglected to take along a 9×13 baking dish. She didn’t want to bother her neighbors so could I quick bring one in to her?

    • Loving this story!! Sorry it took me so long to find it. I can understand her not wanting to bother her new neighbors. Mom now borrows stuff from her neighbor across the hall and I’m glad she feels free to do that, yet not overdo it. Today she meets with the CEO of the retirement complex after she wrote him a letter. Can’t wait to find out the outcome of that! She’s a wing dinger at 90. 🙂

  7. I made a half recipe tonight and the two of us scarfed down the whole magnificent panful. !!

  8. I like your testing method! Was the family some Murches???

  9. No, some Clymer Kurtzes–and the leftovers went along home.

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