My grandson, Austin, brought me a lovely gift from his family garden—a sack of collard greens. The leaves were deep green, crisp, and the size of a pizza peel. I was so grateful that I gave him a hug and took this picture in the middle of the street which I think embarrassed him a bit..
Preparing this nutritious veggie brought back memories of watching my grandmother dump greens into the sink, wash them free of any grit, remove the tough veins, and stuff them into a pot. I can still remember that pot; it was thin, ribbed metal and had a flat lid with a chipped wooden handle. At least once a week, she’d cook a grocery sack of turnip, collards, and mustard with a slab of fat back or a ham hock and some seasonings.
As the pot simmered all afternoon, the smell drifted several doors down the block. No one complained. Still, it occurred to me that in Clayton, where I live, there might be a city ordinance against creating such a pungent odor in a residential neighborhood. Hmm… it was worth the risk …and the middle of the day… and I’d open the sliding glass doors.
I didn’t have any fat back, so I made do with bacon, onions, vegetable broth, and a few red pepper flakes. Several hours later, my mess of greens (as such a concoction is called) had shrunk to a bowl-size serving and was ready to eat.
Still it didn’t look right. Something was missing. Corn bread!
My grandmother always made corn bread, which she felt was necessary to sop up the “pot likker,” the vitamin-rich remains at the bottom of the greens.
So I hastily fried up some corn cakes from milk and cornmeal and pulled up to the kitchen table.
It would have been nice, I suppose, to have had a friend or relative share my bounty, but I only know one other person who eats greens and she was out of town. It was just as well, because I didn’t feel like sharing.