Food for thought in Ga.

April 29, 2002|By Mark Cloud

ATLANTA - We Georgians are embarrassed by our recent political scandal. It's the sort of thing that mars the image of the whole state.

I'm speaking, of course, of grits. Or as they're now known, "The Official Processed Food of Georgia."

How did this happen?

Well, a state representative wanted publicity for the National Grits Festival, so he came up with the bright idea of honoring grits. Other representatives apparently liked the idea, too.

And faster than instant oatmeal, the Georgia Senate voted 35-2 in favor of the grits bill. The only real opposition came from state Sen. Don Balfour, one of the two dissenters. Mr. Balfour, vice president of Waffle House, argued with eloquence and dignity that waffles should be the state's official processed food.

We Georgians are certainly proud that this important debate took place on our Senate floor. But we can't help feeling cheated. We have nothing against grits, mind you. In fact, we really like grits, especially with butter and salt.

The problem is that this legislation was rammed through so quickly that we now find ourselves trying to answer the probing questions of a concerned nation. Where were the arguments in favor of hot boiled peanuts? Who made the case for pork rinds? What about cornbread with cracklins? How did President Bush profit from this?

I'm not aware of any evidence that Mr. Bush has personally profited from grits becoming Georgia's official processed food. Although a complete investigation might reveal that to be the case.

Regardless, we must ensure that this sort of thing never happens again. That's why now is the time to start the public debate on whether the official Georgia motto should be changed from "The Peach State" to something more appropriate. Like "Kiss My Grits."

Mark Cloud is a staff attorney for the Georgia Court of Appeals and a free-lance writer. He lives in Atlanta.

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