With all the divisiveness and division in the country right now, there is one thing all folks can agree on: the importance of grits in American Southern cuisine. No matter one's political affiliation, there is no dispute that good grits make everyone happy (except grits-haters, and there aren't many of those people.)
Since grits have always been a standard kitchen staple like flour and rice, I never anticipated that they would be hard to find in New England. Imagine my surprise when I could not find them anywhere. Surprise turned to panic when I went to one grocery store, then another, and then another, and could not find anything other than polenta. I know, I know, technically polenta is grits, but psychologically it's just not the same.
I grew up eating the standard, white, tasteless grits available on all grocery store shelves in the South. I guess that we never gave much thought to the quality of the grit or corn - grits were a blank canvas to be buttered, baconed, cheesed, or sauced. But when I started searching online to have grits shipped up here, I remembered reading a while back about the renaissance of local, organic, Southern grains and mills. It took very little research to find growers and mills and I placed several orders. I'm now sold on heritage grains and I am never going back.
Why? For one, the flavor. I never knew that grits could have such depth and richness without dressing. Good grits taste mighty fine on their own with just a pinch of salt. Second, the variety. There's coarse ground, 'standard' ground, roasted, white, blue and yellow. There are quick cook and slow cook. You can have a bowl of different grits every day of the week and at every meal. Finally, if you are watching your blood sugar levels, a half cup serving shouldn't cause a spike. I'll never buy boring, plain, and questionably produced grits again.
I've not been shy about my adoration for Anson Mills, and they mill some excellent grits. I haven't tried all of them, but I'm definitely partial to their Coarse Yellow Grits. These grits are outstanding on their own, but are also perfect with a plate of fried fish or steak and gravy. I also love Congaree Milling Company's Roasted Corn Grits, which have an almost nutty flavor - if you have no shame in eating your grits sweet, try them with Maple or Sorghum syrup, chopped dates, cinnamon, and cream.
There are other growers and millers out there, and I can't wait to try more varieties. (I've already set aside time just for grocery shopping when I'm down in the Carolinas visiting family this winter.) I strongly encourage that you give heirloom corn grits a try. I think you'll find that they will occupy a new place of prominence in your kitchen.