By Norris Chambers


The Old Timer attempts to stick to true tales unless the readers are warned in advance. This is an advance warning to the reader that this tale could have happened like this, but probably didn’t!


            I’ve never been as far north as the Arctic Circle but I’ve read that when the sled driver wants his dogs to go he shouts, “MUSH” and the sled dogs start the journey! The sled operator either runs along behind his rig or rides on it, depending on whether he is hauling something or just out for a joy ride. In either ride the command “mush” means to go.

            Because I never knew this I ate my “mush” for breakfast and considered it a morning delicacy! Mush was nothing more than corn meal boiled in milk or water and served hot in a cereal bowl. After adding brown sugar, butter, a dab of honey, a spoon of sorghum, a tinge of vanilla and perhaps a teaspoon of peanut butter I sat down and enjoyed a delightful country breakfast.

            Many families served mush for breakfast. Although most diners only added sugar and butter the cereal mixture of corn meal and other additives was considered a good breakfast by most families.

             Not everyone cared for the spoon food – Clifton detested it! He said he wouldn’t even feed it to a hungry hog! My mother was aware of this and when Clifton was at the breakfast table she was careful not to serve mush.

            As strange as it may seem, we were not familiar with grits. I first heard the word when one of the “oil field brats” at school mentioned eating grits for breakfast. Children in school who were in our area because of the jobs available in the oil fields nearby were often referred to as

“Oil field brats”. They came and went with their families who followed the jobs. Some were in the area for a long period, others for only a few days. Being of a curious nature, I asked what grits were. After a careful explanation I was convinced that grits and mush were just two names referring to the same dish. This student was not familiar with mush, but after our discussion he admitted that they were very much alike.

            I didn’t think any more about the two words until a few weeks later when one of the girls distributed invitations to our class and others to attend her birthday party at 7:30 P.M. the next Saturday evening. The invitation instructed guests to skip dinner and come hungry to be fed at a genuine “grits and gravy” chow down! I didn’t know what kind of banquet she had planned, but it sounded good to a country boy who was usually hungry. I didn’t get a chance to discuss it with Clifton but a few minutes after seven we met at the party and compared appetites. We were both ready to eat.

            A long makeshift table had been prepared in the front yard using saw horses and boxing planks. The tops of the planks were covered with brown wrapping paper held in place with cardboard squares and shoe tacks. There were no chairs or benches prompting me to believe that this would be a standing meal. A noisy crowd of youngsters was lining the sides and ends of the tables and someone on the side nearest the house was trying to address the crowd. Eventually it was quiet enough for the lady to be heard and she said that the main course would be served. Bowls of gravy would be placed on the table and plates of grits would be handed out at the end of the table nearest the house. Clifton commented that he knew what gravy was and was ready to get started. He mentioned again that he was not familiar with grits. I didn’t tell him that grits were like mush, knowing his dislike for mush!

            The gravy was brought out of the house and the ladies passed full size containers down both sides of the table, asking each diner to pass it on. Clifton and I stood about the middle of the long table and accepted a big bowl of gravy. One of the ladies told us to wait for the grits before tasting the gravy and to mix it thoroughly before eating. We heard quite a clatter as the grit bowls were slapped down on the table and gravy was poured to begin the mixing process.

Clifton and I were very obedient and followed the strange instructions closely. We soon had a beautiful creamy mixture. We were told that before tasting everyone should wait until she said “Go” and then start eating!

            Eventually the signal was given and a multitude of hungry kids took the first bite of grits and gravy! I was watching Clifton’s face at close range to see his expression when he tasted the cereal. I was shocked when he smiled from ear to ear and muttered, “Good”! As I lifted a spoonful to my mouth he continued, “It was worth waiting for”!

            He was right. The mixture was some kind of grainy ice cream and it tasted great! One of the host ladies was shouting, “Cake and pie will follow – everyone gets seconds! Enjoy your grits!