Chris Schwarz's Blog

Je m’excuse, Monsieur Auriou

This year’s Woodworking in America was a landmark event for me.

After seriously considering getting a set of astronaut diapers last year, this year I got to go to the bathroom twice – twice! – during the three days.

The only downside to this life of bladderly leisure is that I missed it when Michel Auriou stopped by my booth to say hello. As I was indisposed, my booth-mates told me that Michel looked through my tool chest and was deeply disturbed that my rasps, which were made by his company, were sitting out and their teeth were touching one another.

Yes, this is bad form. I know that. But I can explain.

Usually I store my rasps in a nice cotton bag where they are rolled up so that the teeth cannot come in contact with other teeth. The bag is secured with a strong rubber band from broccoli. (We waste nothing in our house. I must have 1,000 rubber bands in the house.)

However, let me say that the bag itself might offend Michel’s culinary sensibilities.

Yes, it is a bag for grits. We eat grits every week in our house and so we have a lot of these bags sitting around. So I use them to protect my block planes, compasses, marking gauges, extra irons, you name it.

I do get some unusual looks when I open a bag that is filled – filled – with crumpled grits bags full of tools.

If you don’t like it, then you can kiss the bag that holds my grits.

— Christopher Schwarz

31 thoughts on “Je m’excuse, Monsieur Auriou

  1. RoBanJo

    Grits, oh grits, I knew thee not to Keesler AFB in Biloxi, MS. Those Mississippi chefs in that USAF dining hall made me a believer. The great North West is highly diminished IMNSHO due to a lack of Grit-iness in the local cuisine. And did I mention the cheddar cheese grits at Cracker Barrel – it makes me swoon. Thanks for the great blog.

  2. Jason

    The next time you’re in Pittsboro you need to force Roy to take you over to Crook’s Corner in Chapel Hill. When I was a poor college kid I managed to save enough money to eat there at least a couple of times a month. That’s not an easy thing to do when you’re 19 and distracted by women, rugby, women, beer, and women, but dang if it wasn’t worth it.

  3. John Cashman

    I’m from the Northeast, and I’ve only tried grits once. And I can promise you, once was enough. I’m sorry, but I just fail to see what it is everyone raves about. And so I won’t be annoying just one part of the country, I’ll throw In-N-Out Burger into the wildly overrated column as well.

    De gustibus non est disputandum.

  4. Fred West

    Chris, being born in Baton Rouge and the son of two hardcore southerners I grew up on grits and have always loved them. However, I have never seen a recipe like yours for grits and it makes me salivate like it’s going out of style. Just to show how southern, we used to have our grits, eggs, sausage or bacon, toast and finally buttermilk to drink. When I moved north, no one seemed to know about buttermilk and what they did know seemed to make the gag. :o

  5. robert

    For the three generations prior to mine, my family ran a grain and feed mill. Chicken feed used to come in “dress-print” bags so that farmers wives could re-purpose the bags into aprons, dresses, etc. when the bags were empty. Some took what ever you pulled out of the warehouse and others demanded that the bags match in groups of three – three feed bags being some magical clothes making number.

  6. tsstahl

    Hmmm, beats collecting all those Crown Royal bags like I’ve been doing.

    Never been nicked by a power saw blade, but those three steps up from the garage…

    ;)

    1. NHSchreiner

      And I thought I was the only one using those Crown Royal or my favorite Chivas Regal Bags. I keep my block planes in them, bags turned inside out so the velour is against the tool (also wouldn’t want people to think I drink on the job). I use a blue bag for my blue Stanley low angle and the brown Chivas bag for my brown record block plane. Funny how both bags match the color of the tools. Who says woodworkers just have taste for sawdust.

    2. NHSchreiner

      And I thought I was the only one using those Crown Royal or my favorite Chivas Regal Bags. I keep my block planes in them, bags turned inside out so the velour is against the tool (also wouldn’t want people to think I drink on the job). I use a blue bag for my blue Stanley low angle and the brown Chivas bag for my brown record block plane. Funny how both bags match the color of the tools. Who says woodworkers just a have taste for sawdust.

  7. Steve_OH

    I brought a couple of things to WIA to show Ron Hock and Dan Terbovich, and I wrapped them in old Japanese ryokan towels (they’re promotional things–they have the ryokan’s address, phone number, etc. on them–we use them for dish towels), secured with rubber bands from asparagus.

    -Steve

  8. atcooley

    Well Chris that is my favorite story of True Grits… seriously I was wondering if you would do a blog on setting up one of the manual miter Boxes like the Miller Falls or similar and if you use a sacrificial base? Thanks

    1. Christopher SchwarzChristopher Schwarz Post author

      I’d be happy to do a blog on this. There is not much to do — either it is square or it is not. But you can do some things to make the saw run more easily.

      I’ll put it on the list.

      Chris

  9. Bill Lattanzio

    I have to admit, I’ve never used a grit bag to protect my tools. I usually use old t shirts. I do however like grits. Being a boy from the heart of Philadelphia I had never had them until at 19 I was stationed in Georgia and had them most every morning for breakfast. Here I am almost 20 years later still missing them. Maybe I should get some; I do need a pouch to store my block plane..

    1. Christopher SchwarzChristopher Schwarz Post author

      Bill (and all Earthlings),

      I have a recipe for grits that will make you all slavish slaves to the almighty mulled corn. Anyone who wants this dangerous recipe need only ask….

        1. Christopher SchwarzChristopher Schwarz Post author

          2 1/2 Tbs. unsalted butter
          2 1/4 cups chicken stock
          1/2 cup grits
          1–2 cups heavy cream
          1 tsp. chopped garlic
          1/2 tsp. thyme
          3/4 cup goat cheese
          1–2 Tbs. Chopped chives
          Salt and fresh cracked white pepper to taste

          Bring the chicken stock and butter to a boil in a thick-bottomed saucepan. Stir in the grits and return to a boil. Reduce the heat, allowing the grits to cook for another 15 minutes at a low boil, and until the grits are thick and have absorbed most of the chicken stock. Stir occasionally to keep the grits from sticking.

          Add 1/2 cup of the heavy cream to the pot and reduce the heat, allowing the grits to cook slowly for another 10 minutes. As the liquid is absorbed, add more cream, cooking the grits until the desired consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste with a total cooking time of at least an hour. The grits should be thick and full-bodied. Fold in the chopped garlic, thyme and crumble the goat cheese on top.

          Bake at 350º for 10 minutes. Garnish with chopped chives.

            1. Christopher SchwarzChristopher Schwarz Post author

              Mark,

              I make a HUGE batch of these grits for dinner. Then I store them in the fridge. In the morning I’ll slice off some slabs and pan fry them on the griddle — perhaps in bacon fat if it is handy.

              “Quick grits” are only half a lie (the “quick” part is true).

          1. Sean A

            As someone both southern and yuppified, I am quite conflicted. Recipe sounds delicious, but Bubba would roll over in his grave — that is starting to look like some kind of yuppie “polenta” (rebadging “grits” to make it acceptable in fancy restaurants)!!

            Should I retreat back to my cave or blog about this to my foodie friends?

            1. Christopher SchwarzChristopher Schwarz Post author

              Try it before you decry it.

              This is how grits are served in Charleston for a nice meal. Our everyday grits are cooked in chicken stock and milk. Then we mix in whatever is on hand. Cheese. Bacon. etc.

              1. bobbollin

                Thanks for the article on wrapping up the tools. I have to admit that I am a bit casual about this aspect of woodworking.

                I have saved and will try the recipe, but in several visits to (what I consider to be) The South – Colonial Williamsburg and many visits to Texas, I must say that I have felt for years that grits are inedible but would probably be useful for patching nail holes in drywall.

                “Boiled popcorn” is my overall impression. But I’ll try again…if I can even FIND grits in the Northwest. The recipe looks good. Thanks!

              1. Bill Lattanzio

                I have to warn anybody who makes the grits. They are excellent as I said but be careful if you fry them the next day. Use a splatter guard, your hands and your kitchen will thank you.

  10. Bowyerboy

    You have nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, there is something of a precedent. Back in the 1940’s and ’50’s flour companies used to ship their flour in bags with patterns so homemakers could use them to make clothes. My father remembers my grandmother making the entire family underwear from them. Maybe you can use grits bags to make astronaut diapers for next year.

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