If you had to point to a singular dish as being representative of the varied and deeply rooted communities that make up the American South, grits could sure as hell be that dish.
Which is precisely why the world is shaken by a claim made by Ray J relating to the iconic Southern staple. It isn't so much what he said about grits, but what he says someone else said about grits.
The musician, actor, and Kim-Kardashian-sex-tape-participant-turned-reality-star claims that during filming for the upcoming FOX show My Kitchen Rules—a reality cooking competition show—70-year-old country music singer Naomi Judd openly referred to grits as "slave food."
Judd and the producers of the show, however, are adamant that she never said it.
The new show "pits celebrity duos against each other as they cook and serve meals in their homes." Among the contestants—besides Ray J and Judd—are Andrew Dice Clay, former Beverly Hills Housewife Brandi Glanville, Lance Bass and his mother, and Ray J's sister, Brandy. An adaptation of an Australian favorite that has been humming along for several seasons, the American version seems to be rife with more squabbling than cooking.
First, reports flew that Naomi Judd wanted off the show because she thought she was "better" than the others. Whether that assessment has to do with culinary skills or some other type of moral superiority—and whether she even made the statement at all—is unclear.
Then came the grits comment, which took things to another level. In a video that Ray J posted to Instagram, he looks into a camera and utters the following declaration:
"I don't know, maybe I was trippin' when she said that she didn't like grits because, I don't know, it was slave food and that she would rather starve than eat grits. I don't know what was going on, but I felt uncomfortable… This smells like some racism. God bless her but it ain't cool."
Once the racism charge was put into the mix, the producers of the new show got busy. They reviewed the tape containing the questionable statement and found that Naomi Judd did not, in fact, disparage people of color—but she does indeed disparage grits.
TMZ reports, "According to sources connected to My Kitchen Rules… when the cast gathered Wednesday, producers played back the 'grits' footage in question. We're told what really happened is Lance Bass and his mom served shrimp and grits—as part of the show—and during the meal Naomi said when she was growing up her mother wouldn't let her eat grits… because it was poor people's food."
All we can say is this: The Southern favorite that is grits may never be the same after this reality show is done with it. Watch your words, people: Grits are heavier than just maize.