North of the Grits Line we have blackberries
September 12, 2008 · Updated 4:38 PM
Picking Blackberries yesterday and falling into the brambles, I thought of the mighty effort I had taken for a blackberry pie.
Quite a bit, it seemed, as my skinned arms and prickled fingers began to itch.
This next thought came to me: Would you make the same effort to get a bowl of Mississippi grits?
I stopped dwelling on Mississippi grits, for picking blackberries on a sunny day does not include getting on a plane, traveling thousands of miles to sit in a Naugahyde booth in a steamy breakfast cafe and have a large bowl of my favorite food.
Having picked enough berries, I returned to our condo and made a pie. Within an hour, the husband and I ate a slice of that September wonder, the blackberry.
Did I mention the additional whipped cream? I meant to.
We smiled at each other with a purple grin, knowing as we did that the seeds would be the devil to dig out of our teeth before nightfall.
Who cared? Our stomachs were filling, our souls renewed, and we were happy.
“I just can’t get enough of blackberry pie,” I said and ate another slice.
Still, dozing over the nightly news, my love of grits returned.
Let me explain what grits are for those who have never gone south of the Mason-Dixon Line.
The late author Jack Olsen told me that he redefined the Mason-Dixon Line as the Grits Line. This meant that above the grits line they served hash browns while grits reigned below. The two lines, Mason Dixon and Grits were not the same, but covered the same territory.
You may ask: “Why travel so far to have grits? Can’t you just buy a box of grits and eat the morning away here?”
My answer: “Eating grits is a community occupation.”
Do I hear snickers in the background? Probably.
Picture this. It is seven o’clock in a small town in Mississippi. I stand outside in the motel parking lot. A distant and delicious whiff of something desirable floats through the fall air.
“I smell grits,” I announce.
Racing to the motel café, I step into a steamy room lined with red booths and a counter with, say, 10 stools.
Farmers with muddy boots, caps perched on their heads, sit on these stools with their hands busy. Doing what?
Shoveling those pure white, non-nutritious grits into their mouths.
Quickly, I take my seat and gaze pleadingly at the advancing waitress.
“Two eggs over easy, toast and a bowl of grits,” I say.
“Honey, grits comes with breakfast.”
“Grits comes with breakfast,” I repeat joyously.
How splendid that sounds to one who has been grits deprived!
You can understand now that a single bowl of grits cooked in far-away Bainbridge is not as delicious as a bowl of grits eaten among a crowd of grits-lovers.
I recognize that the blackberry has its own community. I call it the September Crowd that dots the roads as they harvest the bushes. No bramble is so detested all year but so loved when late summer rolls around.
Arms grow scratched as buckets fill, stools appear as hard-to- reach jewels dangle overhead and happy smiles show as work finished. The pickers trudge home with blackberry jam or a pie in their minds.
The aroma of blackberries seems to stir in the air as grits do in Mississippi.
Soon the blackberry season will subside, as I eventually have to leave that Naugahyde booth for home.
I, joined by the September Crowd, sigh with collective regret.
What do we have to look forward to? Oh, yes, the apple season is soon upon us.
Apples will fall from trees ready for the harvest rush.
Apple jelly, apple pie, applesauce.
I feel an apple pie fit soon to overtake me.
Maybe I could sprinkle the crust with grits.
Sally Robison is a Winslow artist and the author of “The Permanent Guest’s
Guide to Bainbridge Island.”