Recently, a friend of mine told me his daughter was stopped by airport security in Charleston, South Carolina, because they thought she was a “mule.” Knowing this fellow well and his daughter since she was tiny, I first needed clarification of what a mule was and why someone would think this nice college freshman was a mule.
I know that a mule is what you get when you cross a female horse and a male donkey and they are hardworking and Clint Eastwood paired up with Shirley MacLaine in the movie “Two Mules for Sister Sarah.” The pairing of Eastwood and MacLaine bothered me in later years and didn’t really help me with my mule problem.
Stubbornness is associated with mules, but I don’t think they simply stop you in security lines for being stubborn unless you are not cooperating with them by letting them see all your underwear and baggage and what you are taking on the plane. I asked him, “Was she not cooperating with them?” He noted that she was very cooperative, but that they were very concerned with the strange white substance that she was taking on the plane with her.
Now I understood what he meant by the term “mule.” I’ve led a sheltered life and don’t use such terms on a regular basis. My friend is an attorney who has spent many years dealing with such people and the terms used to describe them. He meant the type of mule, as in person, who is paid to transport contraband, specifically drugs.
At this point, I knew there had to be a mistake. After asking him what his daughter was trying to get through airport security, he left the room. When he came back, he was carrying a white paper bag about the size of a bag you would use to take your lunch to work.
He opened the bag.
There definitely was a white substance in the bag. He let me hold it and I shook it a little to see how the white substance reacted when I shifted it around in the bag. I looked up at him and smiled.
“Those are grits.”
My friend’s daughter was retained in Charleston for trying to smuggle grits out. She wasn’t retained long I’m sure, but the strange Southern white stuff caused the airport security to be uneasy. As for me, I would be concerned about someone who could not identify grits in their uncooked state.
Then again, maybe I should have been happy. Perhaps, the security detail was watching for folks trying to get the Southern staple out of the South, specifically concerned about grits heading north. We laughed about it and I took a few pictures of the “evidence.”
These grits came from a place in Charleston called, “The Hominy Grill,” which seems to be one of the best places to buy and eat grits in Charleston. Celebrity chef, Emeril Lagasse has a recipe for “Charleston Style Grits.” There doesn’t seem to be any magic to the recipe, other than cooking them long enough so that they become smooth and creamy.
Any good Southerner knows this, as well as anyone who has watched the movie, “My Cousin Vinny,” where it is noted on the witness stand, “No self-respectin’ Southerner uses instant grits. I take pride in my grits.”
That’s the way a lot of folks think of grits – from what they have seen in the movies.
They say the true origin of grits is from Native Americans. The term itself is from Germanic and Old English terms, which mean sand or gravel. The South buys about 75% of the grits sold in the United States.
In South Carolina, state law requires that grits be enriched, similar to the requirements for flour, unless the grits are ground from corn from which the miller keeps part of the product for his fee. My friend’s daughter can attest to the tough “Grits Laws” in South Carolina, specifically Charleston. I really would like to know that the ordeal was the result of trying to keep our grits down home, rather than someone not being able to identify the strange white substance.
Cranks My Tractor
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I'm BN Heard and I like semicolons, dogs and "real grits."
I will be back on stage January 28th at The Auld Shebeen in Fairfax, Virginia with Better Said Than Done.