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