I don't have any pretty pictures for this post.
I'm writing it in a huff.
Allow me to explain.
Yesterday I visited the Union Square Greenmarket. Don't get me wrong, I really love the place...with its pretty produce and its fresh pies and its strapping, ruddy-cheeked farm men sent straight from some idyllic pasture in Vermont. It's great. It's refreshing. It's really great and refreshing.
The Greenmarket is obviously a little sparse this time of year, so the few farm folks who actually show up to do business are selling items of winter, like root vegetables and hardy greens. Plus there are stalls with the occasional selection of cheeses, jams, and dried grains. My last stop yesterday was at a stall with said dried grains.
I perused their offerings, which included tidy little sacks of wheat berries, oats, rye, and a special table with larger bags of cornmeal and polenta. I was glancing over this special table, which happened to be near the register, when I looked up and caught the eye of a lonely cashier. I attempted friendship.
"You guys have lots of interesting stuff here. I'm surprised there aren't any grits!"
Ok...I mentioned grits because a) they're a "rare" food item in New York, and since it was obvious that the little booth prided itself on its "rare" grains I truly was surprised that they weren't offered, and b) I'm from the south and I know what I'm talking about. But I wasn't looking for a fight.
"We do have grits," she said. Snobby-like. Reeeeeal snobby-like.
"They're right here." And with that she snatched up a big package and dangled it with two fingers near her face. I thought, Oh, am I mistaken? Her blatant assuredness sure tells me I am! Is there really a bag of grits that I had somehow missed? My bad INDEED! I'll have to buy this little bag, this little bag of grits!! Then I blinked, looked down at the label, and read:
YELLOW CORN MEAL
Oh no. Oh, no no nooooo. No she didn't. This woman had no idea what she was talking about. Not. A. Clue. Summoning etiquette, I threw her a bone of social grace and didn't call her out right away. I pretended to think she was making a joke.
"Ohhh, haha," I chuckled. "Oh that's what you use for cornbread, though, right?" (The irritation in me was mounting, but I played dumb.) She looked at me with a patronizing smirk.
"Well yeah, of course you can make cornbread with it, but I always make grits with this. These make, like, real grits," she declared. This human, this brazen creature, then raises her eyebrows and adds, "Definitely not the instant kind you're probably making in the microwave."
The kind I'm making in the microwave, huh? The nerve! I was so insulted I could not speak. She not only questioned my food knowledge, but my very integrity as a home cook! What, did I look like the kind of woman who COOKS IN THE MICROWAVE?? Not that there's anything wrong with that, I suppose, but come on...why would she say such things to a complete stranger like myself? I would've forgiven her little food faux pas if she had nixed the condescension, but after that last remark I was left with no option but to smile and walk away. I could have told her that her lipstick looked cheap. But I didn't.
In the end, though, the joke's on her. Anyone worth their salt, and certainly anyone working behind the counter at a chichi organic grain booth in Union Square, should know that there is a difference between corn meal and grits. Of course it's all corn; but there's still a difference, be it ever so slight. I ultimately decided not to publicly embarrass her with the truth...turns out, a knowledge of grits is not the only thing that defines a person as Southern. It's also a knowledge of good manners.
Ha. Have fun with that cornbread batter you're eating, sweetie.