A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from August 16, 2006
Grits and Grunts

"Grits and Grunts” is a famous Florida dish, perhaps not to the liking of all. A “grunt” is a fish that often makes that sound; many people prefer other fish than grunts. “Grits,” of course, is the famous Southern dish of cornmeal.

Key West popularized “grits and grunts” around 1900.

Florida Museum of Natural History
Importance to Humans
White grunt is considered good quality fish for human consumption and is typically marketed fresh. They are part of a historic Florida dish, “Grits and Grunts”. Although usually served as a panfish, some are large enough to provide small fillets. This fish has been linked to ciguatera poisoning. Although it is of minor commercial importance, white grunt is considered a recreational gamefish. It is caught primarily by hook and line off the southeastern U.S., but is also taken with fish traps, bottom trawls, and seines. In Haiti it is sometimes collected with dynamite. The white grunt is also collected for public aquarium displays.

Florida Trails
Perhaps the commonest fish of the Key West docks is the common “grunt,” a variety which seems to correspond in habits and size with our Northern cunner or salt water perch. As “hog and hominy” is derisively said to be the mainstay diet of the Florida “cracker,” so “grits and grunts” is the favorite food of the Key West “conch.” Yet look at the amazing little fish! His gaping mouth is orange yellow within, his tail the same color. His main color is light blue traversed with narrow lines of brassy spots mingled with olive. Beneath he is white. His back is bronze and a dozen bright blue lines on his head are separated by broad, brassy marks.

Highways and Byways of Florida
by Clifton Johnson
New York: Macmillan Company
Pg, 99: 
“Grits and grunts” are the favorite foods of many of the Key Westers.

October 1932, Life, pg. 26:
Glad too, to have my fill of sea food, Florida lobsters, shrimps, pompano, red snapper, and the famous dish of grits and grunts, mighty tasty withal, though I do not like the sad noise with which the little grunts quit this life.

5 March 1949, Chicago Daily Tribune, pg. 12:
“Conch Cooking” is a 90 page compilation of Key West recipes. Its authors are Luise Putcamp and Virginia Z. Goulet. The book was published by the Central Press, Inc., Miami, and bookstores have it at $1.50.

The book appealed to me because it contains a number of famous Key West and Cuban recipes rarely found in other cookbooks. Key West is only 60 air miles from Cuba and Spanish and English both are spoken freely there. The Cuban influence on cooking is strong. Recipes include such dishes as conch chowder, green plantain soup; roast pork, Cuban style; Cuban fish and almonds, “grits and grunts,” “pumpkin funny,” Cuban baked pineapple, guava duff, and Cuban flan, a custard.

28 February 1988, New York Times, “The Real Key West” by Betty Fussell, pg. 300:
Equally obscure is another favorite breakfast, of grits and grunts, in which cornmeal mixed with grated cheese is topped by small poached or fried fish called grunts (related to snappers), the whole surrounded by sliced avocados and seasoned with a condiment called “old sour.”

Posted by Barry Popik
Florida (Sunshine State Dictionary) • (0) Comments • Wednesday, August 16, 2006 • Permalink