Favorite phrase origin I’ve learned this month

Yes, one can have a favorite phrase origin of the month. It happens.

New Yorker on a top Charleston chef: “The setup seems to mirro the oldest divide in Southern culture: between slave cabin and big house, pot likker and plantation sideboard — between eating low on the hog (meaning pigs’ feet) and high on the hog (meaning tenderloin).”

Hog phrases, my friends. Who knew? Not me.

The story on the whole made me want to run home and make cheese grits. I was riding the Metro to work at the time, so I waited. But at the day’s end, there were cheese grits in my kitchen and so many of them.

Granola and grits?

When I wasn’t rueing the grilled-cheese sandwiches at work this week, I learned about a groupp people called “Granola and Grits.” Apparently, this group was a type of online audience. I didn’t learn who they were, what they did or why they had that name.

As someone who enjoyed granola bars but used a very different part of his brain — and his stomach — to create Patrick Cooper’s Famous Half-Naked Grits, I was confused.

I turned to the Internet. I found the term used to describe a petroleum engineering company buying a construction company. Another source used the combo to teach the Pythagorean theorem (“two villages, Granola and Grits, are separated by Lake Sun Shine…”). My third try finally found someone who ate them. “I needed the fiber, really,” MB said.

I was still a little lost.

Thankfully, marketers soon set me free from their cage of words. In a blog comment about a public record search engine, I learned: “Traditional Times is the kind of lifestyle where small-town couples nearing retirement are beginning to enjoy their first empty-nest years. Typically in their fifties and sixties, these middle-class Americans pursue a kind of granola-and-grits lifestyle. On their coffee tables are magazines with titles ranging from Country Living and Country Home to Gourmet and Forbes. But they’re big travelers, especially in recreational vehicles and campers.”

And then: “The migration of upscale city dwellers out to the countryside can be seen in the emergence of this exurban cluster. Fast-Track Families is filled with middle-aged parents who have the disposable income and educated sensibility for a granola-and-grits lifestyle: they fish, boat and shop over the Internet — all at high rates.”

And then: “New Eco-Topia, comprising one percent of the United States, mixes an interesting bunch of folks: those escaping downtown and those who’ve never lived downtown, or as author Michael J. Weiss says, ‘a mix of granola and grits.’ Although they’re earning middle-class incomes ($35,300), the Eco-Topians bring a touch of big-city tastes to the back country with a penchant for imported cheese and organic gardening, AOL and public broadcasting, Subarus and Humvee trucks.”

And then we go back to “Traditional Times” with a little more specificity: “Traditional Times folks, middle-class couples who own RVs, live a ‘grits and granola’ lifestyle, eat at Shoney’s restaurants, order from L.L. Bean catalogs, read Catholic Digest and tend to belong to veterans organizations….”

But I couldn’t find anyone to describe the taste. I could imagine it, of course, but I couldn’t judge it. One of the two ingredients had to win. In life, for the marketers, I’d guess the granola. On the palate, for me, I’d guess the grits. There couldn’t be a tie. It would be wrong.


I went to a Waffle House today. It was my first visit to any Waffle House. There I ate a waffle, bacon, toast, scrambled eggs, and grits. (“Sure, sure, I heard of grits,” My inner Cousin Vinny says. “I just actually never seen a grit before.”) Washed it all down with a tall glass of orange juice.

In doing some reading now, apparently I ate at Waffle House #1000. It’s located in Avondale Estates, Ga., the chain’s founding city. The very first restaurant used to sit just down the street from #1000. I wonder what Nate Winegar is up to these days.