When guests reached the second course of the Carolina Rice Kitchen Dinner — presented last night by the Old Village Post House – table conversations veered sharply to the first softshell crabs of the season, superbly flash-fried by chef Forrest Parker’s team. The supporting Sea Island Guinea flint grits from sponsor Anson Mills barely merited a mention.
The grits’ fade-out was a kind of triumph for Anson Mills’ Glenn Roberts and University of South Carolina professor David Shields, who have jointly spearheaded the effort to resurrect Carolina gold rice and the crops which completed the agricultural system surrounding it. The results of their work, including Chinquapin chestnuts, benne seeds and James Island peas, formed the core of the Rice Kitchen Dinner menu.
But the revivalists’ overarching goal is for the nearly-forgotten grains to attain standard ingredient status. Roberts and Shields have no interest in making the plants cultivated generations ago by Lowcountry growers into untouchable relics; using heirloom grits in service of another regional delicacy is very much in line with their strategy. Continue reading