Mary Woodson was no fan of Al Green’s refusal to commit to her (or to monogamy). So she took matters into her own sauce pan, coating a naked Green with scalding grits; weaponized grits have since worked their way into a range of Black art and media. Cynthia Greenlee explores the stories for Vice, stripping back the hardy-har-har tale of an angry woman getting revenge on a cheating man to show the powerlessness and pain beneath.
Food is about relationships and power: who cooks for whom, who can leave the table without cleaning, who picks the strawberries, who pockets the profits. And not all relationships are healthy. The food served for pleasure can also serve as punishment. Take the origin story of Prince’s hot chicken in Nashville. Family lore has it that the chicken got its mouth-scalding heat from a girlfriend who objected to the late-night shenanigans of her partner. When he requested her special fried chicken after carousing without her, she slathered it in cayenne pepper, battered it, and fried it. The story has the apocryphal patina of a much-told tall tale—but if true, someone liked revenge served blindingly hot and with ample pepper.