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Way below radar 

1 800 MY GRITS

For decades, America's premier skin magazine ran a series of ads called "What Kind of Man Reads Playboy?" It was shameless self-congratulation. The guys featured in these ads were rich, good-looking, and had lots of expensive toys, exactly the kind of men who didn't need to "read" a girlie rag.

            We hereby begin our own self-promotional campaign: What Kind of Person Reads Way Below Radar?

            There's no big graphics budget, folks, so you'll just have to imagine a brilliant, rich, sleek sybarite snarfing down a big plate of grits.

            That's right, grits. Hominy grits. White flint corn with the germ and hull removed, cooked and ground and reconstituted with plenty of hot animal fat.

            Plumbing the depths of hominy lore, we were overjoyed to discover that the Quaker Oats company provides a grits hotline for its inquiring customers. When we spoke with the grits maven (she also covers the Rice-a-Roni and Aunt Jemima hotlines), we learned just enough to keep the mystery alive.

            Yes, there's a bored-sounding lady, sitting somewhere with headphones, ready to take your grits questions. But no, she will not tell you how many calls she gets a day. Nor will she divulge which product generates the most calls. And if you suggest that her previous job was working the phone-sex lines, she will pretend not to understand.

            Phone 1-800-MY-GRITS during off hours, and you'll be given another number "in the event of a medical emergency." What kind of grits-related medical emergencies has the Quaker telephone staff faced? They're a little cagey about talking on that subject. The Way Below Radar staff actually spent some time trying to hurt ourselves with grits, but besides a nasty brush-burn induced by scrubbing the uncooked cereal on the tender spots of our bodies, we walked away unscathed.

            Now here's where the sneering stops. Seriously, this is our recommendation for a top-notch nosh. When you cook grits, make extra. Put them in the fridge (they get a delightfully clammy, pasty texture). Next day, fry up some bacon (the best to be had in Rochester? Heiden Valley Organic or freshly sliced from Swann's Market). The meat part is great, but the grease --- that's the gold.

            Fry up leftover grits like pancakes, in bacon grease, and you will experience the food of the gods.

            Now, what kind of gods are we talking about? Gods who don't take themselves too seriously. Gods who say "hog and hominy? Let me at it." The kind of gods who read this column.

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