In fact, the subtitle says it all: ‘Say it with Grits’ wants to be a mirror on American culture.
Your ‘mirror’ is a 61 years old guy who used to live in a small village some 30 miles north of Amsterdam The Netherlands. For those who have trouble with the geography: West of Germany and East-North-East of London UK. As a son of a tulip bulb grower and church organ player, he grew up in the spacious countryside of a Dutch ‘polder’ and has experienced the life of hard working on a farm. At the age of four he already could be found in the fields; at first for play, later ‘helping his father a hand’, but soon as nonsalaried personnel during the holidays. Later his life has been focused on education, psychology and coaching, but mainly classical music; your ‘mirror’ is an avid piano player. He found his last ‘great love’ online some years ago. She lived in Florida USA and has been a serial entrepreneur with passion for improving the world. They physically met for the first time in 2013 and have been a couple ever since. He calls her ‘My Contessa’, but considers himself as just ‘the guy next door’…
The American Way
It was only three days after my arrival for that first visit and within a time frame of less than 24 hours that I was confronted, in an ‘invasive’ way, with 4 instances of “The American way” of living. The pivotal confrontation was with “instant Grits” with fake cheese and powdered eggs combined with instant coffee, brought to me as ‘a typical American breakfast’ without shame.
My Contessa is a great chef, so she is off the hook, and I must say the Dutch cuisine is not known for its refinement either, but these experiences made so clear how different our cultures were. In our conversations it already had a playful role, but it went more serious during our drive to North Carolina, discussing fundamentalism, racism and the Capital Punishment. Especially about the last issue I had that question every time we entered a new state: ‘Does the government kill people in this state too?’, as if in an unfortunate coincidence this could happen to me right here, leading to my execution.
American Extremes: ‘AmerikaanseToestanden’
In Holland we have an expression called “AmerikaanseToestanden”. That somehow translates to “American Conditions”, “American Problems”. The expression was mainly used in the 70’s 80’s and 90’s whenever an unwanted development was perceived in politics or in social discussions; afraid of the extreme division in rich and poor, lack of social security and health care, overt media convicting of suspects, extreme criminal punishments, gun control and Capital Punishment. In the context of centuries of friendship, it was safe to talk about those “terrible” ideas Americans had; especially in the South. Reagan returned that favor by talking about “the Dutch disease” and calling Amsterdam a ‘Sodom and Gomorrah’, conservative America always calls Holland a ‘Socialist’ country and George W even made a law to invade Holland (The Hague Invasion Act).
As long as that big pond is between our countries, the adage “live and let live” works fine. From a distance it is easy to hear or read about the USA, just think ‘oh, those silly Americans’, and continue your day. But now love has smacked me in the face and my Contessa and I live alternating in the US and the Netherlands. It means we need to integrate, not only into each other’s lives, but also our societies. For the former we are already implementing a great plan. As a child my Contessa played the piano and it appeared, she had great talent for it. Now she is taking that hobby up again, and under my ‘inspiring leadership’ we aim to play pieces for 2 piano’s or 4 hands together soon. I, on the other hand, will step into the world of entrepreneurship: “the heart of the American Dream”. My Contessa will let me be part of her businesses by teaching me, let me do some artistic and editorial
stuff and do ‘projects’ with me. She also is guiding me with my first steps as an entrepreneur. This is how ‘Say It With Grits’ is born. My passion for writing is combined with some wits and a fresh look on American society. The hope is that you will enjoy my writings and will become a follower. Of course, I would like you, whenever you visit the website, to have a look in the web shop. Right now, it contains Tees with an abundance of original quotes about Grits that go far beyond the so popular “Kiss my Grits” quote. So, whether you are proud of the South, or Grits identifies who you are, or you are a Northerner who sees fun in wearing something referring to Grits, in our store you will find excellent ways to express yourself. Remember, during Carters presidency half of Washington was eating Grits.
Since I consider myself a 50% immigrant staying in America for some 6 months a year, one of the first things to do, experiencing the country, is to adjust a few of my preconceived opinions. One of them was the idea I only could relate to New Yorkers or Californians. I guess many others will follow. Here I am in the Deep South….. It explains why the name of my site is Say It with Grits: Probably there is no greater contrast between a ‘socialist’ real Grits (polenta) eating European and a Grits eating Southerner.
So, the best thing I can do is watch and learn and be amazed about how Americans do their thinking and do what they do and discuss it with my Contessa. Born in Harlem, raised in Brooklyn, but making her career in the South – North Carolina, Texas, Florida – I do hear a ‘drawl’ sometimes…and whenever she reports her communications with others she uses “…. I says…” all the time.
I think I will even adjust to the South…..,I have to, right? Will you help me?
Then please read the immersive story of how I experienced ‘The American Way” at a funeral still having a jet lag during my first visit in my ‘Say it with Grits’ post. In ‘Kiss my Grits’ you will learn not only why I call my new found love ‘My Contessa’, but also why I really wanted to play with Grits.