Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Giving Thanks: Day 3...A head of collards and a hunk of cornbread


Before we know it, November will be far into its first week and we'll have to start thinking about Thanksgiving. I love Thanksgiving maybe more than Christmas. I said maybe. But something happened yesterday that could clarify it for me some more. And since this is day three of Giving Thanks Challenge, I know exactly what I'm thankful for. Here goes.

One day last week we stopped by my cousin Bill's house to take him a little gift. I have always loved Bill, since I was a little girl. But more on Bill in a later post. Anyway, we started talking about his turnip patch and I told him that I still cooked my turnips the way Aunt Delah (his mother) had instructed me that they were to be cooked. He asked about our collards and Mac told him how great they were doing. "I love collards," Bill allowed, "but with just me here it's too much trouble to prepare them and cook them. " I made him a deal then and there. I'd trade him some cooked to a turn collard greens, if he would let me get about 3 dozen turnips, complete with greens. He agreed so fast it made my head swim.

Yesterday, after we got home from Mac's appointment with his Doc for his quarterly blood work (that darned cholesterol medication!) I found a message from Bill. I was just about to return his call when the phone rang. I told him he must be psychic, I was just about to call and he told me to be at his house at about 10:30 (this) morning. He said J.W. (his nephew, another cousin of mine) was coming to help him harvest the turnips and he was ready for collards! Promising to see him at the appointed time and place, I told Mac we had to go pull a collard head.

We walked out to the garden a bit later and Mac asked which one I wanted. I pointed to a beautiful huge head loaded with lush green leaves and said I'd take that one. It was such a perfect specimen that I caught my breath. "You know, " I mused, " if this were at the State Fair, it'd be a prize winner. A blue ribbon prize winner." Mac had just cut the heavy root off, and held it up for a better look. "I do believe you're right, " he grinned.

I cut the leaves off, which left just the stalk to go into the compost. There was not one leaf that was damaged, no poison had ever touched them, no bugs had munched, not one single blemish was on that perfect head of collards. I couldn't help but grin from ear to ear at Mac's success. Taking the bundle of leaves inside, I lay them on the counter and filled the sink with the the first of several rinsing water baths. After I had washed them, I rolled them, one by one, into the tight bundle I had often seen Mammy (my Grandmother) do, took my kitchen shears and cut them into small pieces. And was instantly transported back in time to her kitchen. I could hear her voice talking about the Thanksgiving meal she was preparing and how good she felt that we had made the trip up from Tampa to be with them all. She was busy cutting the collards into the stock pot and bringing them to the boil. She put in piece of fatback and covered the pot tightly. She was describing to me the dinner that would soon be shared with her family. The dining room would be filled with Aunts and Uncles, grown cousins and of course Grandparents. The big kitchen table would be set for the children where from 9 to 15 of us would sit for our meal. The main topic of conversation would be how to get rid of the collards on our plate. No one, of course, was thinking about actually eating them. The smell of cooking collards is something that most children would find offensive. All those vitamins and roughage fouling the air, covering the smell of roasting turkey and the best dressing anyone ever put in their mouths...

Mammy had a rule when it came to food put on your plate. You cleaned that plate, on account of all the starving children in China. (My friend Vonnie said her Granny once knocked her half way into the following week when she replied "I wish they had this plate, I don't like collards"). Now, I don't know how our cleaning our plates had a thing to do with the children in China, starving or otherwise, but we respected (read feared) Mammy enough to do what she said. I'm not sure when my childhood self turned against me, but that Thanksgiving something profound happened. Preparing myself to heave, taking the first bite (after a liberal dosing of Pepper sauce) I found the taste, well...I found the taste pleasing. I took a second bite and actually smiled. The rest of the table looked at me like I was an alien in their midst. I was reaching for a hunk of cornbread...

When I came back to myself, found me standing at the kitchen sink still cutting collards, putting them into the big stock pot and grinning like a mule eating briers. I had heard Mammy's voice so clearly, even though she has been gone for 30 years, that I didn't doubt she had been standing right next to me. I felt her love wrap around me like a warm sweater...or a big old collard leaf. All that was missing was the smell of cornbread wafting from the oven. I guess that's why it's called "comfort food".

34 comments:

Kat said...

Hi sweet friend! I'm back....I hope.

Collards, turnips, cornbread...oh my! Yum! I love them all and now you've got me thinking about a big 'ole plate of fresh veggies, a slice of raw onion and some hot buttered cornbread. Comfort food is exactly right!

Hugs!
Kat

Lee said...

That is a wonderful story, Sandi! It reminds me of how our spirituality consists of place, activity, and also the people we are with. What wonderful memories you have of your family!

XXX
Lee

Putz said...

wow, your sound track to say the least is different....who shot liberty valance....is that early 50's?????you aren't that old surley, been too london also....are you 68/////???????YOUR MUSIC DATES YOU EVERYDAY WITH A LETTER SEALED WITH A KISS

Nessa said...

This was such a lovely story. thanks for sharing it.

Tuesday's Tales #1 - John

sandy said...

nothing like fresh

Love Bears All Things said...

Loved this remembrance! I, myself, do not like Collards, although I did eat a good many when I was growing up. Turnip Greens, I do like. I don't cook them the way Mama did. Once she learned that I didn't like them with a little sugar on them, she would portion mine out before she added it to the rest.
This was a wonderful contribution to 30 days of thanksgiving.
Mama Bear

Hilary said...

It's amazing how smells and the warm memories they evoke can transport us back like that. Such a lovely story and memory. :)

I've never tasted collards.. maybe it's time I did.

Shrinky said...

I have no idea of what a collard is, nor have I ever tasted cornbread, either! Oh, Sandi, you are a natural when it comes to telling a story, it's such a pure delight to read your posts, what a heart-warming glimpse into a happy, secure and loving childhood - little wonder you grew into the person you are today!

Protege said...

Beautiful story... I think I can relate to the fact how certain scents and sounds can bring back precious moments in time.
You know, I love both cornbread and turnip, I really do.
And I am hugging you back.;)
xo

Brenda Eason said...

Beautiful post! I think I even went to that table with you =) girl im so with you I love me some greens and cornbread. The only thing better is cornbread in the juice when the greens are gone lol.
I would so much as slap somebody for a bowl right now.Thanks for the memories,Brenda

Pat@Back Porch Musings said...

I cooked collards not too long ago. J bled like crazy when they drew blood for his protime, two days later. He said he didn't mind a bit, because those collards were sooo good!
They were delish, but not as good as yours, for at least one very important reason, ours were from the grocery store!
Everytime I prepare family dishes, from long ago, I feel those special and strong women, standing next to me. Thanksgiving is one time of year I cook, the "old way", :-).

Love this post, Sandi!!!

Donna said...

you made donna cry....I still can hear the laughter at my parents house when everyone got together...cooking...pumpkin pie...coffee...hugging, even the Pitiful jokes being passed around...
They're all gone now...and I'm the granma...hoping I can help make those kinds of loving memories for My granbabies...
Thanks Sandi...
xxoo

Putz said...

i am the one who is 68....you just seemeed like a twin or a cousin or somethin reading your blog...have a daughter in mertle beach south carolina....near you????i took your quiz and it says i should be in paris....honest....paris.....sent time in verdun

Maggie May said...

I have never heard of a collard but i can see what it is.
Strange how a thing like that can bring back memories from the past.

I can remember my Mum telling me about the starving children in China when I picked at my food and being a very stubborn, headstrong child...... I used to say *Well send it to them then*.
Many a time I was punished for my answering back but it seldom stopped me! The shame of it! LOL!

Nuts in May

Jeni said...

Well, I can't be a judge of collard greens in as I've never had that delicacy (Never had turnip greens either although I recall turnips on the table a time or two when I was growing up and I didn't care for them) But aromas and comfort foods -oh my! I've got way too many of those things that float about in my mind. I love the aroma of bread rising and then, baking! But one food we used to have at Christmas -a Swedish delicacy, to say the least - was lutfisk and baby, does it bring up aromatic memories! Stinky, stinky fish -and house too -for about 2-3 weeks while this dried fish soaked! That wasn't exactly a pleasant thing but cooked up for our supper on Christmas Eve -boiled lutfisk, boiled and butter potatoes and creamed peas (the idea was to have a "bland" meal for Christmas Eve dinner, nothing fancy, no sweet goodies -that fish was a dish extraordinaire and unlike the rest of my cousins, I loved it! Funny how the stink disappears and things all come together when cooked as a really great meal, isn't it?

Kathy's Klothesline said...

Wishing I had gotten my greens planted this year! Next year I will be in a better state of mind I hope and will get my garden in order! It has been so very wet here that it has washed my raised beds down and I will need to have some top soil brought in.

In the meantime... I am off to the store to find some collards. Oh, and a chunk of fat back to season them!

Retiredandcrazy said...

Strange, my mum made me eat foro China too. And what the ... is a collard!?

menopausaloldbag (MOB) said...

Oh yes, cooking recipes that we have been taught by our mothers and grandmothers means they are always with us. The smell is so evocative and brings them right back to you. I find that when I make many of my mother's recipes and she's right there in the room with me. Terrific post.

Akelamalu said...

I love turnips. Are collards cabbage? I love cabbage too. :)

Moannie said...

What a great story: food will always do that, won't it? Ding ding on the memory bell.
Our starving children were always on Africa.

I wonder if Collard is Chard.

lunardancer said...

This has such a warm and pleasant atmosphere, and needless to say, well-written too. It is amusing how we tend to associate memories and pleasant feelings with food that we ate when these events occured. I tol become nostalgic when I smell or see food that I associate with fond childhood memories, especially those during the Christmas family feast.

Sally said...

Love your story, Sandi, and I love collard greens, turnip greens, ANY greens. Of course, have to have the cornbread too!! :)

lakeviewer said...

Love the music playing in the background, and the story about collard greens, and the memory of your grandmother preparing those greens. That's what holidays do best, keep us from forgetting the good old days.

cheshire wife said...

Times haven't changed much have they? Eating greens is still something that children dislike.

Finding Pam said...

What a lovely and heartfelt post. We seem to have a lot in common. And those poor children in China. Did all of our mothers pull that one on us? LOL

We love any kind of greens and cornbread. Last night I made red Cajun beans and rice. We wanted the corn bread, but passed on it.

I still miss my grandmother.

Dr.John said...

Being thankful often brings back precious memories. This is certainly one of those for you.

Gill - That British Woman said...

that truly was a heart warming story, and would you believe I have never ever had collard's..one day.

Gill in Canada

Mimi said...

My gosh, collards, haven't even heard that word since I moved north from Tennessee. Thanks for the memories.

Queenmothermamaw said...

Oh I love the collard greens and cornbread. Um, um, um. A great story.
QMM

♥ Braja said...

comfort food....mmmmmm.....

gaelikaa said...

Memories, precious memories!

Gaston Studio said...

Had missed this post Sandi, but can certainly see why it won POTW! Congratulations!

I'm not one for collards, but I can so relate to being with my grandmother while she prepared hers, standing at the sink, just like you did.

Sugar Creek Beads said...

Oh how I love collards,pot liquor and hunks of cornbread. Can it get any better. I loved your post, just today when talking to Mom on the phone, she said she wished I was there because the whole house smelled like the collards she had just cooked a mess of. She also uses fat back in hers. Your post took me home to Mom and Granny and back to Mississippi. Thanks, Jeanne
Check out my post today, I have a give away you just may enjoy.

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