Grits are confusing to both the Southerner and non-Southerner alike, so let me break it down for you. According to The Food Lover’s Companion, the word “grits” is really a shortened way of saying what it really means, “hominy grits.” Grits are derived from hominy. The Food Lover’s Companion further cites hominy as being one of the first foods that American Indians gifted to the colonists. Hominy is dried corn kernels with the hull and germ removed.
When this dried hominy is ground, it turns into what we know as grits.
And to answer the question, cornmeal has been ground from dried corn kernels. These kernels still have the hull and germ, as opposed to grits, which are ground from hominy with the hull and germ removed.
Now let’s talk about how to cook them. Grits can be simmered in water, chicken stock or milk. Because they are on the mild side, grits need a dose of flavor from things like butter or cheese. For breakfast, recipes like cheese grits are made. But for a more substantial dinner meal, Southerners rely on shrimp and grits, where the shellfish bulks up the grits.