As I was picking out cheese at Whole Foods on the other day, an African-American man in his late thirties turned to me.
"Do you know the difference between the New York cheddar and the Wisconsin cheddar?" he asked me.
"I think the New York one tastes better. And the Wisconsin one melts kind of funny. It gets rubbery," I told him, putting a block of the New York cheddar in my cart.
"I want to put it on my grits."
I looked at him blankly. "Grits? I don't think I've ever had grits."*
He gave me a good-humored look of disbelief and asked a passing Whole Foods employee, who, like me, was a white woman in her twenties, about the difference. She told him that the New York cheddar was sharper, and didn't have a good answer for him when he asked about his grits. She was midsentence when another employee passed us.
"Excuse me," he said to this second employee, a young, African-American woman. "Which cheddar should I put on my grits?"
"The New York one," she said immediately without even stopping completely to look at what he was talking about.
*Brian pointed out to me later that I have had grits. But I top it with parmesan and call it polenta.