There were no whole collards when I shopped for produce yesterday---I settled for two of those crinkly bags of "cut" ones. They are fresh and dark green, and will cook up just like we like them.I'll sit with a BIG bowl in my lap, perhaps with a TIVO'ed Top Chef to watch and dissect and grumble to. I will take each long shred, tear out the biggest of the center stem chunks, leave the smaller, tenderer ones for contrast and heft, and then wash the whole pan through several clear, cold washings, lifting them out onto a big tray as they emerge dripping from the water.
Then they'll go into the big, heavy le Creuset dutch oven, with just the water that clings to them, along with some salt, a few sprinkles of sugar, a big meat-clinging ham bone from the freezer, and lid on, they will cook gently for a LONG time, the old Mammaw way. It's a cool, drizzly day, and the aromas of cooking greens and crusty cornbread will fill the house with the scent-memories of a lifetime.
Perhaps a little cool bowl of baby red potato salad alongside, with some crisp crescents of cold sweet onion, and a few hearty shakes of the just-ready pepper sauce with the little wasptails. It's been brewing in the sunshine in the upstairs kitchen window, with the reds and yellows of the peppers reflecting the light all over the walls.
Chris will come smiling down the stairs, with a brisk breeze of the outdoor cold and damp, will change into his warm sweats, have a sip of something while we talk, and we'll sit down to a meal which has warmed and comforted and filled generations with the homey, homely ordinariness of a sublime comfort food.
He'll pick up the peppersauce bottle, sprinkle a few little glugs into his bowl, taste, and give it a couple more drops. A big bite of the wedge-end of the buttery cornbread, a bit of cool, mustardy potato, and the circle is complete---Greens and Cornbread. If the whole world could catch on to this---we'd all be better off.
I've always said if I ever wrote a book about the South, it would be called "Blues and Greens." One feeds and enhances the other, in a never-ending cycle, repeated every day. And each is better for the kinship.