By Randall Franks
When I was a kid a big part of my life was looking forward to what I was going to eat at my next meal.
My folks use to say I would snack between bites. Now that I think back, I probably did. I loved to eat, but not junk food. I loved to eat good cookin’. Since I am from the South that probably meant things folks today will say are bad for you.
It wasn’t until I was in the seventh grade that I realized why the Yankees invaded the South during the Civil War.
Folks might say that it was to keep the Union together but the real reason behind it was they didn’t have grits and gravy and we did.
Amazing how finding good gravy and properly cooked grits can lead a man to desperation.
I was on a seventh grade patrol trip to Washington, D.C. and sat myself down at one of those fancy uptown restaurants where they have more waiters than you can shake a stick at.
When the fellow came over I spoke up and said, “I would like two eggs, a side of grits and biscuits with gravy. And don’t skimp on the gravy.”
That fellow just stood there with eyes wide open and said, “What is a grit?”
I knew that I was in trouble up to my elbows.
What is a grit? How do you explain something like that?
I fumbled around pretty good for a kid trying to explain how grits are made:
“Well you see, a grit comes from a corn kernel when it is ground up. You cook grits in water and can serve them several different ways, some folks eat them with sugar on them, some folks like cheese in them and other folks eat them plain with a little butter.”
He still just stared at me.
Finally I gave up and said, “Well if you don’t have grits what do you have?”
“We have hash browns,” he said. I said that would be fine if he had some ketchup to go with them.
He then told me they didn’t have any biscuits but they had some toast.
He asked me if I still wanted brown gravy on my toast ‘cause “it normally goes on mashed potatoes.”
I told him I wanted some gravy made from grease drippings of bacon or sausage mixed with flour and a bit of milk. His eyes began to fog over as I tried to explain the recipe I had seen my grandmother and mother make morning after morning.
“Reach and get you a good handful of flour and drop it in the cast iron skillet with the drippings. Then add you a couple of pinches of black pepper and just enough milk not to make it into soup and brown it until it’s done.”
I finally surmised that it would be hopeless to try any further and besides, there were three others at the table that had to order and we had a bus to catch.
So I said, “Well you don’t have grits or biscuits or gravy; any chance on getting those eggs?”
He shook his head yes.
I asked, “Would you be so kind as to bring me those?”
He replied, “Would you like eggs Benedict, eggs Florentine or poached?”
I told him if he had to steal them, I just wait until I got home.
My grandparents told me when I was little how the Yankees stole everything the family had to eat from their folks during the war.
I didn’t really didn’t think of it too much at the time, but after that experience, despite the war’s being over, them Yankees were still stealing eggs from chicken coops.
Randall Franks, a musician, singer and actor, is best known for his role as “Officer Randy Goode” on TV’s “In the Heat of the Night”. You can write him at firstname.lastname@example.org.