Grits *is* good.

When I was a kid, I remember seeing cans of Hominy in the grocery store.

The fact that it looked like alien bloated corn that had been exposed to gamma rays and gotten very sick (oh wait, that’s huitlacoche) didn’t do much for my desire to ever try it.

Image result for hominy

I became more aware of its presence because I worked at  the Daitch Shopwell on 1st Avenue between 57th and 58th Streets in New York, and had to price cans with these stamps and purple ink:

Price Stamps 2

But time heals all things… or at the very least tends to change things, particularly one’s tastes. You can visit my Banquet from Hell, and see why I was awarded the honorary title of “Grand High Culinary Inquisitor” by Howard Tayler, author of Schlock Mercenary.

I am passionately fond of Menudo, a wonderful, hearty Mexican dish which includes both tripe and hominy, and later fell deeply in love with grits, a porridge made with ground hominy and very popular in the south. Again, I had heard of this as a kid and had no desire to try it because it sounded like eating finely crushed gravel. Fool that I was.

Grits is related to the Austrian Grieß, although the latter is made with semolina and makes wonderful dumplings. Nothing is more warming and comforting on a cold morning than a steaming bowl of buttery, peppered grits:

Image may contain: food

You’ll notice that I use the singular when describing grits, and that’s because it’s not plural. Grits is singular, and grits is wonderful.

For authentic confirmation of this fact, I turn to a lovely oral essay by Kathryn Tucker Windham,¹ an American storyteller, author, photographer, folklorist, and journalist:

I never remember sitting down to breakfast in my childhood home in Thomasville without having grits. And it wasn’t the instant kind, either. My mother, before we went to bed at night, would put the grits on to soak, put the grits in the top of a double boiler, let the grits soak overnight, so it would be ready to cook in the morning. And oh, I guess it tasted… I was just accustomed to good grits.

And I will now stop a minute to carry on my campaign for trying to convince people that grits is a singular noun: you say “the grits is good, the grits is hot.” Just because it ends in an “s” doesn’t make it plural; it’s in the same category with “news” and “measles.” So bear that in mind.

But… on special occasions, sometimes for supper we’d have grits again. Cheese grits, sharp cheddar cheese, grated and stirred up and hot grits. Aah, it was marvelous. And if my brother had gone hunting and had come back with quail or dove we’d have grits with the dove and quail. There’s just no finer eating in the world than that on a cold weather’s day. And the baked sweet potatoes that were always better in the winter time. Just slathered with butter and baked until they were soft, and almost mushy inside. Slit ’em open and put butter that we got down at little Miz Anderson’s, bought butter from her, she had a good cow that had rich milk and wonderful butter.

And the soup that my mother used to make, vegetable soup, I’ve never had any as good as she made, and I don’t know how… I’m sure she didn’t have a recipe, she just used what was available – but sustaining, comfortable winter food and somebody would have a hog-killin’ and we’d get some of that fresh meat, the ribs and he pork chops, and the… oh, it was all so good, and that was … the hogs were killed only in the wintertime on a very cold day, and they were a treat to have, and I always looked forward to them. But it was the grits, that stuck to your ribs and was sustaining, comfort food. And if you want it really comforting, add cheddar cheese, sharp, and stir it up, and eat, and enjoy.

I heard this piece on NPR years ago, and you can still listen to it at WLRH in Huntsville. Add that beautiful, mellow southern accent and you can feel her joy in the memories of her childhood, and the rich goodness of the foods she relished… including grits.

Which is divine.

The Old Wolf has spoken.


¹ Many of Windham’s works, including audiobooks, are available over at Amazon.


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Old Time Radio: Margaret Draper and The Brighter Day

From 1948 to 1954, Margaret Draper played the part of Liz Dennis on The Brighter Day. It was one of her first significant breakout rôles, and led to a successful career in radio and later television, mostly in the advertising world.

Radio-TV Mirror, May 1949 – Papa and Liz Dennis

Radio-TV Mirror, May 1949 – The Cast of the Brighter Day

Radio-TV Mirror, June 1950

Radio-TV Mirror, October 1952

Radio-TV Mirror, October 1952

From Radio-TV Mirror, not certain which issue

Margaret Draper, Joe DeSantis and their son

In 1999, the Friends of Old Time Radio convention featured a reunion of the Dennis girls, who with others put on a reader’s theatre featuring The Brighter Day, followed by a Q&A session.

Cast

Patsy – Pat Hosley
Althea – Jay Merideth
Liz – Margaret Draper
Papa – Leslie Pagan
Jerry – George Ansbrough
Narrator – Bill Owen

Sound Effects – Lynn Nadelle and Bart Curtis
Music – Ed Klute
Producer – David Segal
Director – Bill Nadell
Engineering – Bill Sudamack

You can listen to the original episode that this performance was based on.

The following two posters were displayed outside the convention room:

Pat Hosley

Jay Merideth

Radio stars at a “Ma Perkins” party. Brighter Day cast on the right.

Cast of The Brighter Day asks the audience to be kind.

A later photo of the Brighter Day cast, looks like around 1960.

Margaret Draper, front row, Left.

Trade magazine advert for Brighter Day

Trade magazine advert for Brighter Day

The writer of Brighter Day for many years, Orin Tovrov, had a special fondness for Margaret, and vice versa. Here’s a letter Orin wrote to Maggie on the occasion of his leaving Brighter Day in 1950:

A very gracious letter. A further indication of the Tovrovs’ respect and appreciation for Margaret’s work as Liz Dennis is found in this beautiful felt book made for “Liz” at Christmas, 1949. It must have taken many hours to create. I loved this book as a child – I could look at it for hours, and it almost acted as a sort of “quiet book” if memory serves.

Front Cover

Attending Church (The missing piece is the Hymn Board; Daily Food and chores.

Liz dreams of her Knight in Shining Armor

Which one will it be?  Finally married! Notice the reference to older sister Marcia, who had married and left the family before the show began. She never appeared on-air.

More home life; Christmas label

Back Cover

More about The Brighter Day can be seen in the following Links:

Old Radio Times, 5 May 2006

The Brighter Day at Wikipedia

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Electronics for Dummies

Or, “Oh for simpler days.”

When I was 8, I had a big brother for a very brief time. He was 14, and awesome in the 1950’s “Homer Price” sort of way. He built his own ham radio equipment, had all the soldering tools and an oscilloscope, and had a cool slingshot, and did really neat things at Hallowe’en, and I worshiped him. I regret sincerely that that particular domestic situation didn’t last.

But it was thinking about radios that got me going.

This image appeared over at Teresa Burritt’s Frog Blog, and I got all misty. I remember looking at all of brother’s electronic bits and pieces, and was fascinated by the pretty stripes on the resistors – at 8, I would not have been able to grasp the concepts of resistance, nor appreciate the mnemonic power of  “Bad Boys Rape Our Good Girls But Violet Gives Willingly”. Then a career got in the way, and then technology exploded by several orders of magnitude, and now I’d be about as useful repairing a circuit board as an Australopithecus with a Rolls-Royce jet engine.

But there’s something about going back to basics.

When my son was 12 or thereabouts, a “build your own radio” project happened. I don’t’ recall if he asked me, or I did it just to show him how it was done, or it was some scout thing or other – but a radio got built out of some junk, and it worked.

This was pretty much the design. A toilet paper roll, some copper wire, a headset, a germanium diode, and some assorted junk from around the house, and we were able to listen to KSL and some other local AM stations. I don’t even know if ours had a condenser on it, and I couldn’t tell you why it would be needed or not – I’m still that ignorant.

Life is full of choices, and every choice has prices and benefits. There are so many things on my bucket list, I don’t know if I’ll ever get to all of them. But understanding enough about electronics to be able to do repair work on my little Conn Theaterette organ is one of them.

This one’s not mine, but it looks just the same. All component parts, tubes, you name it. With the spec sheets and my trusty voltmeter, I should be able to keep the thing in top running condition… if I only understood the basics. Which I don’t. Not having studied my Agrippa. Hey, Macarena! Wait, there goes the ADD thing again…

But the point is, I could still learn. Nowadays, circuit boards and electronic parts are so cheap to manufacture that nobody bothers to repair things any more – you just throw it away, and buy a new one. But the principles on which they are built are no different. This voltage in, that voltage out – watts, ohms, condensers, capacitors – they’re all still there, just tiny. And, there are things out there to help.

While things like this are still to be had on eBay,

I think a kit like this would be a good place to start,

along with something like this:

And the parts are out there. With audiophiles becoming more and more numerous, the manufacture of vintage tubes has experienced a resurgence. Folks like me may never be able to tell the difference, but there are people who swear by component sound over microcircuitry, just like some folks will never give up their vinyl.

So hope is not lost. I’ve got too much on my plate now to think about it, but this blog entry will be a good reminder for me when things calm down a little.

The Old Wolf has spoken.