Showing hospitality with true Southern food

Last week, Darrell and I had the pleasure of hosting two young ladies from Up with People in our home. What a wonderful time we had with Regina of China and Mathilde of Belgium.

Up with People, a multinational education and service organization, is celebrating 50 years of traveling the world. These young people spread a positive message of unity through music and dance.

More than 120 young adults, ages 17 to 29, arrived in Hall County on Monday evening and spent the week serving throughout the city. All of the proceeds from their concerts in Gainesville will go toward providing a home for a local family through Habitat for Humanity.

Each night, we enjoyed the girls’ enthusiastic accounts of working at Habitat for Humanity and INK (Interactive Neighborhood for Kids). We heard of their love of children, especially those with special needs, as well as the satisfaction received from building something with their own hands.

The girls’ backgrounds and descriptions of their respective countries and cultures were just fascinating. Regina had been in the states attending boarding school and has finished her first year of college. Mathilde, however, had just graduated from high school the day before leaving on this adventure. Mathilde’s parents own a chocolate shop in Antwerp.

Belgium chocolates, can you imagine how wonderful? I was practically mesmerized as she told of the chocolates, the numerous fillings and other confections they produce. I believe in the interest of good chocolate and global peace I should check this out someday.

I could hardly wait to ask the girls what they loved to eat. They quickly let me know while the food of their homeland was their favorite, they wanted to taste all that Southern cuisine had to offer.

Well, say no more. I felt it my duty as a Southern cook to be sure they had the full experience. So throughout the week I cooked such things as biscuits with sausage gravy, macaroni and cheese, fresh cream-style corn, pork roast, black-eyed peas, pound cake and yes, grits.

They tried everything and loved it, even the grits. Now, these are my kind of girls!

It just goes to show you Southern cooking does have universal appeal.  

It was truly an honor to host such amazing young women.

As we hugged goodbye, they thanked me for the good food and Southern hospitality. I thanked them for the reminder this great big world is full of wonderful young people with bright futures ahead of them. And before they left, I just couldn’t resist leaving them with the notorious parting words of the South, “Y’all come back now, ya hear!”

I sure hope they do.


 

Cheesy ham and grits casserole

  • 3 cups milk

  • 3/4 teaspoon salt

  • 3/4 cup grits

  • 1/4 cup butter

  • 8 large eggs

  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

  • 2 cups diced ham

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Generously grease 9-by-13-inch baking dish with butter or cooking spray.

In a medium saucepan, combine milk and salt and bring to a boil. Pour in grits and stirring constantly, bring to a boil.

Turn heat to medium and continue stirring until grits begin to thicken. Add butter and stir to melt.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs together. Add cheese, ham and grits mixture.

Pour into prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown. Serve.

This dish can be cooked the night before, cooled and put in the refrigerator overnight, covered tightly with foil.

When ready to serve, bring the casserole to room temperature and then bake for 20 minutes on 350 degrees (still covered in foil).

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