Kalista loves grits.
Her preference for grits is so pronounced they’ve become one of those staple foods in our kitchen that we never go without, much like bread, eggs and milk. You know those canister sets that hold things like flour and sugar? One of our canisters is reserved for grits.
They’re the old-fashioned grits that take 20 minutes to make, and have to be cooked on the stove. The instant ones will do for Kalista, but they’re not preferred. Kalista has become a grits connoisseur, completely capable of knowing the difference between instant and “real” grits.
So when an inch of snow Thursday morning delayed school by two hours, the choice for breakfast was clear.
“Grits, Daddy,” Kalista said from the living room sofa when asked. “I want grits.”
And grits she got. As if I had any qualms about it.
Grits, you see, have become a sort of symbol to me. They represent days she was 2 – and all I could get her to eat was grits. I’d try eggs, yogurt, soggy cereal, fruit … all to no avail at times. But grits were a winner on even the pickiest of days.
Then came shrimp and grits at restaurants. I like this dish, as does Kalista’s grandmother, who’s been with us many times for dinner. Kalista like shrimp and grits too – minus the shrimp.
A winner, time and time again, has been butter and cheese. Any kind of cheese – American cheese, cheddar, mozzarella and even a little bit of parmesan. Kalista doesn’t even have love for sweet stuff like milk and sugar on her grits.
“I want to add the cheese,” Kalista said Thursday, reaching for the bag of shredded cheddar in my hand. “I can do it.”
Nowadays, at the age of 5, she adds the elements herself to a sauce pan on the stove: one quarter of a cup of grits to one cup of almost-boiling water. Butter and cheese go in after the grits have cooked for 15 minutes. Viola! Breakfast for Daddy and his girl.
The progression of Kalista’s grits-cooking skills has mimicked her childhood. There was a day, I often think, when all she knew to do with grits was eat them.
Now look at her, I thought Thursday as I officiated, directed and governed her cooking endeavor. She soon won’t need me at all to make her grits.
But on this day, she did. She’ll also need me this weekend, and weekends thereafter for at least another five years.