Food history: White corn

Does somebody with a bit more knowledge of southern cooking or food history happen to know if the white corn popular in the south that is used to make white cornmeal and gritz is a variety bred by farmers in the past century or of if it was grown by native americans living there before the settlement of the south. Any input is appreciated even if you don't know the answer. Thank you.

  • Posted by: Droplet
  • July 17, 2011


Droplet July 17, 2011
Thank you both very much, Susan and SKK for such comprehensive answers. I am currently unable to go to a library so couldn't get to reasearch it. @ Susan, Knopf seems to have published a very good series to which the book you quoted belongs. @SKK, the word gritz does indeed have a german origin, or germanic anyway, it is also spelled Griess, with the double ss standing in contemporary german for a letter that looks like a larger elongated S. But I believe that german/swiss Gries is identical to semolina and thus made of wheat.
SKK July 17, 2011
I have a wonderful book called Foods of the Americas - Native Recipes and Traditions. When I traveled to Suriname, I was reminded that the Americas include all of North America, Central and South America. This is a reminder to me that America is not just the U.S.

According to Foods of the Americas corn originated in Central America nearly 10.000 years ago and is used by most Native people. According to Jakaltek Maya, the First Father distributed corn among leaders of distant communities, spreading it across North America. Europe did not have corn when Christopher Columbus came over, according to this book. He introduced it to Spain upon his return.

I have also work and traveled extensively in Africa. Corn (maize) was introduce by the Europeans in the 1600's. Before that millet and sorghum. And in Ethiopia it is teff.

I read somewhere the word grits comes from the German term "Grütze" which means coarse gound corn. Don't know if that is true or not, and do know there were a lot of German settlers in North Carolina.

We owe a lot to our American Native people.

susan G. July 17, 2011
From Blue Corn and Chocolate, by Elisabeth Rozin
"When Columbus first set foot in the New World, there were many varieties of corn in cultivation, types for popping, for parching, for eating fresh, for grinding into meal. And there were many colors--yellow, white, red, blue, black, and speckled."
"The South has always preferred the white variety for its many cornmeal dishes: Some authorities claim that this preference reflects an attitude that equates lightness or whiteness with superiority. The more richly colored yellow corn was given to the more richly colored slaves."
Opinions, let me say, are those of the author... White corn is also the preference in Rhode Island.
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