I’ve been buying my grits (or polenta, if you like) and some of my wheat flour from the 250 year-old Old Mill of Guilford near Greensboro, North Carolina for a while now. They’re the real deal, shipping you a bill with your order on the premise (hope?) that you’ll mail back a check. They don’t do credit cards.
But surely the Missouri Ozarks, littered as it is with the fast-flowing streams necessary to turn the stones of a mill, still has a working operation. Turns out, not so much. And it’s sad. After all, mills were a centerpiece of frontier life in Missouri. As families carted sacks of grain to the local mill for grinding, entire towns sprung up around them. They were part commerce, part social gathering place. Few remain; those that do are tourist sites rather than working mills.
Madeline Matson in Food in Missouri: A Cultural Stew says most Missouri mills had closed by the middle of the twentieth century. The closest thing I can find was the familiar Hodgson Mill company, which I didn’t recognize as a Missouri operation. You can find their products all over town but they’re a fully modernized outfit these days, located in Gainesville, Mo (down by West Plains).
The next project: a side-by-side tasting of Hodgson and N.C. grits, both sporting a little lard I’ve got in the fridge and maybe a sprinkling of cheddar cheese. Wonderful, and miles away from that instant crap most of us have had.