Things hadn’t become real for me until about the second week of March. It was hard to tell what was happening. All the news being spread around seemed like rumors, and I couldn't sort out the facts from fear. I was still going into work, but more and more people were working from home. Though I didn’t know what was going to happen, I thought I should start to prepare.
One night after work, I went to the grocery store to pick up “staple items.'' I didn’t really know what I was preparing for. Were grocery stores going to run out of food? How long did I need to stock up for? Should I only buy canned items? I walked around, unsure of what to buy, and started by grabbing what everyone else told me to get: chickpeas, tuna, rice. I headed to the cereal aisle, and that’s where I spotted grits on the very bottom shelf. I hadn’t made grits at home since I was 6 years old.
Growing up in North Carolina, I had an idyllic childhood with my best friends a few houses down. Every morning before catching the bus I would eat pancakes, Kix cereal, the occasional brown sugar–cinnamon Pop-Tart, or grits. I have particularly strong memories of eating grits out of the same beat up green plastic bowl throughout my childhood. My dad would always make them—though my mom is an amazing cook, my dad had the right liquid (water or milk) to grit ratio. The texture was thick and velvety. My dad would often add cheese to the grits, too, but it couldn’t just be any cheese—it had to be American. (Comfort food has no judgment, right?)
After stocking up on a few items at the grocery store (note: a very moderate amount for two people). Grits were still on my mind when I went to the farmers’ market the next day, and I came home with a giant jar of stone ground white corn grits. They had to be white corn, not yellow.
By the end of the week, everything had changed. Panic, fear and confusion set in everywhere. My family and friends back in North Carolina felt farther away than ever.
So I decided to break into the jar of grits, to help find comfort. The process of making grits is therapeutic for me, too: Watching the milk and water boil up. Catching it before it boils over (it goes fast). Then stirring in the grits rapidly with a whisk to make sure there are no lumps. I have found I continue to stand over the stove (and stir periodically) the whole 10 minutes. I love watching those breathing bubble-monsters explode at the top.
With another pinch of salt and maybe an extra pat of butter, it’s done.
Although I can’t physically be with my family right now, every spoonful makes me feel closer to home. —Amanda Widis