finished and ready to eat
My cookbook entry is a childhood favorite collard greens. Collard greens are a traditional Southern comfort food from my childhood. This dish brings up sentimental memories of watching my mother and grandmother cook greens. Both women prepared the dish in different ways depending on the ingredients in the kitchen and the season. The main ingredient is the large dark leafy green plant that was either grown in our backyard, the neighbor’s yard or sold at the grocery stores. The other ingredients included onions, garlic, and meat just to name a few. Other types of greens were mustard and turnips, but collard greens were cooked the most and in my mind taste the best. This large green leafy plant was a comfort food for our household and was cooked at least two to three times a week. What didn’t get consumed would be frozen within a day or two to eat at a later time.
Cooking Greens has been in my family for at least four generations. I originally ate it with my mother as a young child living in California, later with my grandmother when we moved to Georgia during grade school. Which gave me a greater appreciation for the plant; something so simple to my family actually started a long tradition. I cook them for my daughters, and they now cook them for my grandkids. I’ll focus on my childhood for easy reading.
I can remember sitting at the kitchen table watching my mom or grandmother wash the greens in salt to make sure they were clean and did not taste bitter, then cutting into pieces for easy cooking, and placing them in a large pot that was already heated with meat and seasoning. Simmer until done. The dish was then enjoyed with cornbread or a biscuit when you need to improvise and/or baked or fried chicken (not shown) when the money was right or alone during the more difficult times. Collard greens were a staple dish on our dinner table.
greens and biscuit
Collard greens is a dish for the poor and the rich. I say this because in good times when money flowed through the house greens were cooked and enjoyed differently than when times got bad and money was tight. I feel Roy Choi’s LA Son cookbook touched on this same subject as it talked about growing up with a family that was not necessarily poor but still struggled to make ends meet while living in a city that has helped to raise and shape us into who we are today. Money has a lot to do with food and its preparation and food have a lot to do with memories.
Reading Roy Choi’s cookbook and taking a food and culture class has helped me to understand food and memories. The book puts an emphasis on food and life experiences not just its ingredients. The class rang true in teaching “There are few things more basic and bonding between humans than making and sharing food together. To offer food and drink is a gesture of hospitality throughout the world” (Perez, 2018). Both the cookbook and class lessons help me to tell my story of collard greens and generations.
Collard greens can be a warming dish as my mother would add more water in the winter (she called the juice pot liquor which is more like soup) and less water in the summer. A dish that can be eaten during sad and joyous times. A childhood dish that was enjoyed at home and at my grandmother’s house. The first time I had this dish with my grandmother was at her home in Dublin, Georgia. It took us five days to reach her small home along a dirt road. This was during a sad time in my life as my siblings and I were sent to live with her in a one bedroom house as our mother dealt with a divorce. Needless to say, we were traumatized as we were taken away from our friends and driven across the county in a car to stay in what we consider a shack house. This was also the first time we ate so much fast food that we longed for a home-cooked meal. We can laugh about this now, we say we were hungry kids in a foreign land. It was on the second or third day in that tiny shack that we watched our mother interact with hers. We sat and watch our mother help our grandmother clean and cut up collard greens as they discussed how things were going back in California. It is during this time that we kids could see where my mother got her style of cooking and why dinner was made in the morning.
precut collard greens
Both my mom and grandmother prepared collard greens about the same and chose them because they were easily grown, cheap to buy, and easy to make. When grocery store started cutting them things got even easier. This is a dish that can be prepared many different ways no matter race or class. During better times they would use fresh ingredients from the grocery store when times got rocky ingredients would come from what’s on hand or in the garden. The other items when cooking this dish is depended upon the number of people eating (small or large portions) and economic time, but are not limited to:
onion, red bell pepper, and garlic
Collard greens – picked from the garden or four to five bundles from the store depending on how many in the bundle
Meat – ham hooks, soft pork, old bacon grease, smoked neck bones, or smoked turkey butts depending on the package
Red and/or yellow bell peppers – one or two
Onion – one or two
Garlic – one or two
Seasoning salt or sea salt and pepper
Water – chicken broth in better times
store fresh collard greens
Please don’t ask for the measurements for the recipe above, it is a scope of this and a dash of that. No measuring spoons or cups used in their kitchen.
The ingredients are not necessarily cooked in the same setting nor are they the only ingredients used, they are just the main ingredients I remember. The recipe depends on who’s cooking, the size of the pot, the weather, and the financial state of the house. The sure-fire thing that happens when cooking this dish is good music and other items to complement the dish such as homemade cornbread, yellow peppers, and even vinegar. As a child you would only find this dish cooked at home, now you can find collard green in Soul Food restaurants across the states.
It is a joy to write about this tasty dish as a comfort food and associate it with music from my childhood. The songs that come to mind when I think of collard greens are song by Al Green (still played when I’m cooking today), Please Mr. Post Man and Don’t Mess With Bill by The Marvelettes (my dad’s name is Bill so I’m sure this got played until the record broke), and My Girl by the Temptations to name a few. I’m not the only one that associates good eating with music. Opie (2008) suggests, relationships between African American and Latin American during the great depression were forged through music and food. Latinos (Chileans, Puerto Ricans, Iberians, Mexicans, and Argentines) have been known to eat and live in the same neighborhoods as blacks during the Jim Crow era when whites refused to serve non-whites in restaurants. The article notes this may have happened, “perhaps as a result of de facto segregation, African Americans and Latinos in New York developed a vibrant nightlife, with amazing restaurants and jazz clubs where they could socialize” was established. The article goes on to talk about famous musicians and the traditional southern and Caribbean food and helps to blend the two styles of cooking. “Latino and African American artists developed relationships because they shared common interests: cutting-edge jazz and, to a lesser degree, good inexpensive food” (Opie, 2008, pp.82, 85, 86). Still today different nationalities have been known to engage in food and music as a way to communicate and get along with each other.
After reminiscing on the good and bad times associated with collard greens this writer has to get back to the task at hand and that is writing about collard greens at its origins, ingredients that go along with them, and explaining how they are made. It was difficult to locate peer-reviewed/scholarly articles about the origins of the dark green leafy vegetable. I tried quite a few search options and found that the majority of the articles focused on how to grow and cook them. Still more articles forces on their association with cabbage, kale, and broccoli. I was, however, able to find peer-reviewed/scholarly articles on how scholars have come to view them in the last decade, their nutritional benefits, and how different cultures enjoy preparing and eating them in different ways.
In the last few decades, scholars have come to view this dark green leafy vegetable as an excellent health benefit. Internet sites make reference of collard greens dating back to Ancient Greek and Roman days. Anderson (nd), notes that this vegetable is primitive and has been retained through thousands of years. It also has many names in many languages, as a result of their great antiquity and widespread use. If this is true then they are dated back to the classical era when Greek and Roman society flourished and wielded great influence throughout Europe, North Africa, and Western Asia.
Even though some articles speak of collard greens dating back to Ancient Greek and Roman the majority of them I found dated them to African slaves as they reached southern colonies and incorporate a Southern style of cooking. Still another internet article by Spooner (2015) states, “Though greens did not originate in Africa, the habit of eating greens that have been cooked down into a low gravy, and drinking the juices from the greens (known as “pot likker”) is of African origin,” the article goes on to talk about how slaves and their descendants shaped how Americans cook and eat.
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia was very informative in showing other nationalities that enjoy eating collard greens, in the UK these leaves are sold as Spring Greens and used just like cabbage, in Portuguese and Brazilian collard greens (or couve) is a cuisine that is common accompaniment to fish and meat dishes, and in Kashmir Valley collard greens (haakh) are included in most of the meals and both the leaves and roots are consumed (Wikopedia, 2018). The site also touches on the cultivation and storage of a picture of the greens in a Pennsylvania field. An internet blog by a company who makes and cans collard greens (news to me), Glory Foods says that the greens are a hip history that begins way, way back in time. The blog goes on to say historians date the greens back to dinosaurs and that they rooted in prehistoric times. The site was an interesting read because it covers the nutrition of collard greens and how food brings everyone together.
When and how collard greens originated is still a question, vitamin and nutritional value is easier to find. Nutritional benefits and vitamins of collard greens are listed in many different ways, but not many list the vegetable as a standalone benefit. Most readings relate the dark green leafy vegetable to other common vegetables like broccoli, kale, and cabbage. This reader found BlackDoctor.org internet site different, the site focus was solely on the health benefits of collard greens. It was easy to understand as the site was able to identify five amazing health benefits and the vitamins related to this vegetable. The article reads:
“Unlike broccoli and kale and cabbage, you won’t find many research studies devoted to the specific health benefits of collard greens. However, collard greens are sometimes included in a longer list of cruciferous vegetables that are lumped together and examined for the health benefits they provide. Based on a very small number of studies looking specifically at collard greens, and a larger number of studies looking at cruciferous vegetables as a group (and including collard greens on the list of vegetables studied), cancer prevention appears to be a standout area for collard greens with respect to their health benefits” (Jideonwo, 2017).
Vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K and manganese, and moderate sources of calcium and vitamin B6. A 100 gram serving of cooked collard greens provides 33 calories, is 90% water, 3% protein, 6% carbohydrates and less than 1% fat.
This statement rings true as I search different articles and websites to validate my readings. I found that BlackDoctor.org listed five amazing health benefits of collard greens as an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, cardiovascular support, digestive support, and other benefits that are still being researched.
To conclude collard greens is a favorite childhood dish of mine that has been around for centuries and still enjoyed today. This dark green leafy vegetable can be grown in large fields to harvest and sell in local grocery stores or at home in a yard for easy picking. Ingredients used in preparing this vegetable is depended upon the cook and their taste. Different cultures enjoy preparing and eating them in different ways. Its nutritional benefits and vitamins of collard greens ensure that this vegetable is here to stay.
Choi, R., Nguyen, T., Phan, N., & Fisher, B. (2013). L.A. son: My life, my city, my food (First ed.).
Dominguez Hills College (2018). Class IDS 336 and Food and Culture. Carson, California. Dr. Perez.
Glory Foods, (2012, May 02) The Origin Of Collard Greens. Retrieved from http://www.gloryfoods.com/blog/the-origin-of-collard-greens/
Jideonwo, P. (2017, September 12). 5 Amazing Health Benefits Of Collard Greens. Retrieved February 26, 2018, from https://blackdoctor.org/2349/collard-green-health-benefits/
Martin Anderson, Texas AgriLife Extension Service. (n.d.). Retrieved February 26, 2018, from https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/archives/parsons/publications/vegetabletravelers/kale.html
Opie, F. (2008). Eating, Dancing, and Courting in New York Black and Latino Relations, 1930-1970. Journal of Social History, 42(1), 79-109.
Spooner, S. (2015, November 13). What the slaves brought: Africa’s great gift to American cuisine – and the remarkable history of some humble veggies. Retrieved February 26, 2018, from http://mgafrica.com/article/2015-11-02-african-food-america