Grits Galore!
(Marshall’s “Beyond Words” column from November 2011 issue of Nashville Arts Magazine)

Okay. This is for all you cheese grits aficionados out there. And I imagine there are plenty of you, since Nashville is considered part of the southern United States.

This past week, I played a string of concerts along the South Carolina and Georgia coast, with stops in Savannah, Charleston, Sea Island, and Beaufort. The Charleston gig was a benefit for the Nature Conservancy of South Carolina and the Charleston Library Society (“The South’s oldest cultural institution, founded 1748″). It was well attended by a diverse crowd that included everybody from Arrington Walker (flower girl at my parent’s wedding) to former Vanderbilt football coach Bobby Johnson and his wife Catherine.

Earlier that day, Chris and I had driven across the Cooper River Bridge to Sullivan’s Island where we swam in the ocean for a while before walking along the beach. After that, we drove over to the Isle of Palms in search of food. After getting lost, we pulled up to a downhome-looking place with neon signs in the windows. The sign out front said Acme Low Country Cantina.

“Looks like a sports bar,” I said to Chris.

The man working outside must’ve overheard me. “Hey, it’s a restaurant,” he said cheerfully. “And the food’s great. Y’all come on in.”

After being on the beach, the dark, air-conditioned main room (which looked like a sports bar) seemed uninviting. Then I noticed, off to the side, a large screened-in porch with shutters and ceiling fans.

“Can we eat out there?” I asked.

“Sure! Make yourselves at home. Erikka will be with you in a moment.”

Chris and I sat down at one of the tables. It was mid-afternoon and we had the porch all to ourselves. A nice sea breeze wafted through the room.

We both ordered the fried shrimp Po’Boy sandwich, after Erikka mentioned the shrimp were fresh caught that morning.

“You get a side with that,” she added.

Then she began reeling them off … “French fries, cole slaw, regular cheese grits, pimento cheese grits, black-eyed peas, collard greens, red rice … ”

“Wait, wait … hold it right there,” I said. “Pimento cheese grits? I’ve never heard of such a thing.”

“Oh, yes … it’s very popular.”

So we each ordered a side of the pimento cheese grits. Then later, after finishing everything off, we ordered a third for good measure.