People are passionate about food especially when there's a personal or cultural connection. When it comes to southern and soul food few things can start a war or passionate debate like the question of sweet or savory grits. This hot topic has even boiled over into pop culture. I didn't know people took grits this seriously until I happened to have joked about only eating yellow grits with a coworker who was raised down south. He smugly informed me that, "True Southerners only eat white grits."
I, a quasi-southern lady from the Eastern Shore/Delmarva (Delaware, Maryland, Virginia) area happily informed him that I only recall eating yellow grits and he scoffed and said, "I bet you put sugar in them, too." It was a bit of a slap in the face. It was bad enough that I endured him mansplaining what grits were and questioning if I was a "true southerner," but to insult me by saying I defiled my grits with sugar was a low blow and downright disrespectful and he knew it.
I had to keep my composure as I fought the school girl urge to yell, "You take that back you scoundrel," but we were in public and at work and I refused to let him shake my resolve and my southern charm. I smiled and then replied, "My dear-- sugar is for oatmeal or Cream of Wheat but never for grits."
We both did a fake laugh and walked away, but I knew that the sugar-coated accusation was an insult and an assault on my character as a southern woman and foodie.
In my humble opinion putting sugar in or on your grits is a top southern and soul food sin. It ranks as high as putting raisins in any savory cookout or BBQ side dish like potato or pasta salad. Nobody I know ever puts sugar anywhere near their grits-- not in my family or friendship circle.
I love grits and I prefer them to be savory, but I do have a tiny confession. I have put sugar in grits (but not real authentic grits). I wrote about substituting corn meal for grits and one day I really wanted a bowl of Cream of Wheat, but I was out. In my defense, it was during the pandemic-- when a lot of food was scarce. I was in a pinch and desperate times call for desperate measures. I sprinkled a little sugar and cream on a bowl of corn meal porridge aka faux grits, and it actually tasted a little like Cream of Wheat.
It was my one moment of weakness, otherwise, it's Team Savory 100%.
I'm not sure how or why anyone would defile a plate or bowl of grits with sugar. It's not natural, especially if you have it with eggs and bacon. I'll admit they don't taste bad as a sweet porridge, but that's what it becomes when sugar is introduced. I'm a purest, and grits are meant to be served with salt, pepper, and just a pat of butter just like corn on the cob.
I don't know what would possess someone to put sugar on such a wonderful, unctuous dish. I've put a lot of things in and on the side of grits like cheddar and rich mascarpone, but sweet grits could never compliment a savory dish, like shrimp or perfectly fried fish.
At the end of the day-- I'm team sugar-free grits all day-- every day and that's the only way to eat real (yellow) grits any way.