Confession No. 107 – Yes, your kid would do such a thing! (Recipe: Chile-Dusted Shrimp w/ Fresh Grits)

I’ve been guilty of it at least a hundred times, just like my parents before me. And probably theirs before them.

Without discretion or logic, we’ve believed our children.

Such foolishness is akin to the crazy behavior that new lovers tend to exhibit toward one another. It’s a vacuum of carelessness and a false belief that everything will be forever perfect. When it comes to our children, however, we parents have been known to stretch their beliefs even further beyond the bastion of actuality.

In my business, I hear about such cases of falsely pinned trust on a regular basis. And almost every time, I’m taken back.

The undiagnosable bug
Like most others, I’ve tried every trick in the book of fake illnesses to avoid school — holding a thermometer to a light bulb, faking a wheeze and forcing a cough. Many times I’ve gone so far as to begin a day earlier with complaints of dizziness. I had the short steps and hazy vision thing down pat. But I learned that there is one ailment that folks will shy away from almost every time.

The stomach bug.

Warn Mom or the school nurse that you are about to puke, and they’ll immediately offer up sympathy. The act doesn’t work so well when you tell them that you’ll be needing extra toilet paper — or diaper rash ointment. For whatever reason, I’ve found that women will pretty much ‘go’ anywhere. And they expect guys to do the same.

Still, your kid will indeed try some of these methods to avoid his algebra exam.

Recreational profanity
My first attempts at cursing came early in life and very well could’ve been responsible for my lifelong love affair with spicy foods.

At Candy Land Day Care, where I spent quite a few pre-school months, Nancy the owner had her own piquant way of dealing with potty-mouthed children. She smeared salsa on our tongues.

Such an act these days would get poor Nancy sued for everything she owns. CNN would feature her mug shot and editors across the nation would pen Sunday opinion pieces slamming her actions. In all of the fallout, some parents would undoubtedly achieve their 15 minutes of fame by declaring their own children to have language as pure as the driven snow.

Listen up naïve parents! Your damn kids will do such a thing.

Fools’ names, like fools’ faces…
I first heard the old quote about fools’ names appearing in public places at age 10 or 11. In my otherwise clean and quiet middle-class neighborhood, my initials ‘AJ’ suddenly appeared on the pavement of a small creek crossing.

Seen on a restaurant wall in Austin. What a coincidence!

Seen on a restaurant wall in Austin. What a coincidence!

The art remained on the roadway for years, and I maintained my claim of innocence the whole time.

Truth is, every telephone number or vulgar word scribbled on bathroom walls … every monogram carved in the picnic table … every young love affair advertised with Krylon upon bridges and water towers was placed there by someone’s child.

So, when the school principal calls you and tells you that little Timmy left his mark on the overhead projector screen, don’t argue. Instead, just accept that your child would do such a thing.

My genius children
Ask a thousand parents randomly whether their children are academically gifted, and you’ll get one-thousand affirmative answers. We were in that wide-eyed group at one point too.

Our children, without a doubt, are astute. But, as my fourth-grade teacher Sylvia Trussell once told me: ‘It’s not your IQ. It’s your I do.’ I made concerted efforts to avoid doing very much, and so too have my children. After all, YouTube and texting the latest girl drama are so much more fun than calculus or IB English.

But I’ll be damned for buying the same bill of goods that I sold my own parents — the teacher doesn’t like me.

I’ve yet to find a teacher who’ll admit to not liking certain students, but I couldn’t blame them either way. There are times that I don’t even like my own children. But I still expect them to brush their teeth and wash behind their ears. Yet, we tend to buy such excuses for missed homework assignments.

Are we all just bumbling fools? Lazy parents? Inept?

Some of us are. But it usually boils down to wanting to be ignorant, since such a state usually results in bliss. But most of us eventually come around to reality.

If you’re not yet there, please allow me to echo your child’s teacher, coach, Cub Scout leader and your neighborhood Gladys Kravitz. Your kid — and mine, his, hers and theirs — would absolutely do such a thing.

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. I’d also love for you to join me on Facebook (click the ‘like’ button), Pinterest and Google+.

If your idea of grits comes from the diner scene in ‘My Cousin Vinny,’ erase it. Of course, there are greasy spoons out there that use the dried instant type. And plenty of home cooks do the same thing. But there’s an easier and tastier way. Fresh. I prefer to grate corn straight from the cob, but the (thawed) frozen version also works well too. Add sharp cheddar, bacon and chile dusted shrimp and you have a Southern dish that’ll make a grits lover of just about anyone.

Chile-Dusted Shrimp w/ Fresh Grits

Chile-dusted Shrimp & Fresh Grits. A rich taste of the South.

Chile-dusted Shrimp & Fresh Grits. A rich taste of the South.

1 lb – Jumbo (21-25 ct) Shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 TB – Chile powder
1 TB – Vegetable oil
2 TB – Butter

4 cups – Corn
1/4 cup – Heavy cream
1 tsp – Freshly ground Black Pepper
1 tsp – Kosher salt
1/2 cup – Sharp Cheddar, shredded

5-6 slices – Bacon, cooked & chopped
Chopped Green Onions, for garnish

Coat shrimp with chile powder, then vegetable oil. Set in refrigerator.

If using corn from the cob: Remove kernels using a grater.
If using frozen corn: Thaw to room temperature. Blend slightly in food processor or blender.

In a large saucepan, cook corn over medium-high heat, stirring regularly until most of the liquid has evaporated — about 3-4 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and add heavy cream, pepper and salt. Cook for another 2-3 minutes, stirring regularly. Turn off heat. Fold in grated cheese.

Meanwhile, heat another skillet to medium-high. Add shrimp and cook until pink, about 4-5 minutes.

Serve shrimp atop grits. Finish the dish with bacon bits and green onions.

Makes 5 rich servings.


  1. But my children really ARE academically gifted!! ;)

    Great essay, as usual! The other day my 4 year old spilled water over my 10 year old’s homework. Before the water was even fully out of the cup, my 10 year old announced she couldn’t do her homework – the dittos were ruined.

    I took out a hairdryer, had her hold the papers up, and we dried them one by one. 5 minutes later she was back to doing her homework.

    Kids tend to think their parents just fell off the turnip truck!

  2. Had to head on over from Google+ to see your shrimp and grits, Adam. The dish looks truly delicious but I am confused about how these are grits. Aren’t grits made from hominy? Do enlighten me, oh, wise guru of fresh grit fame!

    • Glad you asked, Stacy. Hominy is a dried form of maize (corn) that is treated with lime, then washed. Grits, as we know them, were a concoction of native Americans, but the dish is truly steeped in European culinary history (where the word was coined to describe a roughly milled grain).

      Fresh grits? Well, you have your corn and it’s roughly grated. (And it’s a hell of a lot tastier than the dried-reconstituted stuff.)

  3. What Stacy said…

    Also, I quit believing most of what my youngest child says when he was 4. One day, I hope he will be a great fiction writer. My twenty year old, though, remains somewhat gifted, and honest to a fault. I barely keep a wary eye on him. His brother got all the sneaky DNA.

  4. My youngest graffitied her own name on her bedroom wall when she could first write. And denied it was her!
    And now to the recipe – my ignorance is so extreme I did not know grits equaled corn!!!! things 1) it looks yummy
    2) what Is the difference between Kosher and non kosher salt? It cannot be a Jewish thing as the ingredients call for bacon.

  5. I NEVER did anything like that. There were lots of CBs around when I was a lad.

  6. OK Adam, this post was just over the top, both the essay (yes, my child is gifted too, lol!) and the homemade grits. Of course, me being a Texas gal I MUST try this method, including the shrimp and bacon. Oh my Lord, it’s only 10:30 in the morning and I’m drooling for this dish. Thank you!

  7. Years ago…a young boy aged 3, a delightful little “angel”, was photographed jumping up and down on the roof of my car in a pair of newly purchased cowboy boots. When confronted with the evidence, Mr. Denial made an appearance. Present day…said 3 year boy is a 37 year old man (6’5″…uses a railroad tie for a toothpick) still denies it was him jumping on my car.

  8. The trick is to look angelic and have plausible deniability. Looking meek helps. :-) .

    Grits!! Now I can try for myself. This looks like Ottolenghi’s recipe for fresh corn polenta…?

  9. All I can say is I was the one blamed for EVERYTHING! Now my daughter of course would never do any of those things unless we count the time I was lunch time monitor & the fire alarm went off as we were waiting to go into the cafeteria. Niki immediately accused Justin for pulling the alarm & when I read her the riot act about not blaming others when you don’t know, she came back with “yes, I do know! It was Justin’s hand because mine was on top of his”.
    Fine looking shrimp – do I have to eat the grits? Never was able to acquire the taste for them except for one place in Georgia.

    • Thanks, Diane. And you must try a bite of the grits! I’m starting to regret calling these ‘fresh grits,’ by the way. There are at least a few people who have questioned it, and still question it when presented with a sample of the research. And now, I have a picky eater on my hands!

      I’m not sure that I can convince my ‘Doubting Thomas’ readers, but I’ll bet you’ll like my version of … corn grated from the cob, reduced, seasoned and made decadent with heavy cream and sharp cheddar.

      • Oookay…I’ll give it a try Adam since I trust you. Most grits I’ve tried have been like runny wallpaper paste and I could never understand why people would eat that unless it was to just fill up your belly with something.

  10. Hi ! I am a teacher so I am on the other side watching parents fall for it and yell at teahers, sometimes threatening or punching them because their kids are saint and angels… it is hard to let go and accept that kids are just humans and do all that humans do ; crap included. Last week I have had a serious conflict with a teenager and everyone decided I was the wrong one… Now to parents : how do you expect your kids to learn to be accountable and responsible for themselves and their actions if you never give them to opportunity to practive that when they purposefully for their own growth cross the red lines ?
    Thanks for that excellent post ! loved it !

    • Thank you for your kind words, Mya. While teachers (and principals, coaches, band directors, etc.) might err occasionally, fact is that I’ve never met a teacher who gives failing grades because of a dislike for the student. (I’m sure there are jackass teachers like that out there, but not the 2-3 a year that I hear about when my kids are making excuses.)

      Keep on keeping on. Your job is one of the toughest and least appreciated ones out there. But you have a fan in northeast Texas.

  11. My sister held the thermometer up against the light bulb and it got so hot it burst and spilled pretty mercury balls everywhere… mother was not impressed!

    • That happened to me after the light bulb incident. Knowing that my parents wouldn’t buy the 108F that the bulb produced, I decided to use friction instead by rubbing the thermometer on my pants. Too much pressure though! But at least I had some wicked cool little pewter-hued dry droplets to play with…

      • Haha yeah, I think it did successfully work one time… my sister heated the thermometer on the bedside lamp and stuck it back in her mouth and burned her tongue.. lol. And yeah there was something about the super high temperature that just didn’t ring true either.. lol

  12. Well, kiss my grits! I’ve seen some pretty poor grits wanna-be’s since I moved south of the Mason-Dixon line (mostly at truckstops — a former occupational hazard) but I’ve never seen fresh grits. Thank you ever so much, Adam — I’m a believer now. Isn’t it nice to know you can convert someone with corn? Bless you, brother Adam! :)

  13. “I’ve yet to find a teacher who’ll admit to not liking certain students, but I couldn’t blame them either way.” Maybe not to the parents face, but as an ex-teacher of five years, I will tell you that there were some kids I down right hated and it was a gift when they here home sick. And don’t think I am the only one, oh no, I got to hang out in plenty of teacher’s lounges and you should hear the stories that were told about “lil Johnny”. That being said, can you send me a bowl of them shrimp and grits?

  14. You are killin’ me with all these good recipes. I bet I’ve saved the last 10 in my “must make” folder. This one is joining the group.

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