Gales, Greens, and Grandmas

Well friends, it has been a crazy week down here to say the least. Given the topic of the blog, I guess I should be writing about how we can responsibly rebuild what was lost. But frankly, my heart is just not in that. I can’t get into writing about rebuilding when hundreds of folks are dead and I have neighbors living three blocks away who can’t read this because their power is still out. So, I’m going way off topic today. In difficult times we can turn to the things that comfort us- for me that’s family and food. Like so many southerners (or any other group of humans for that matter) some of my favorite memories are of food that my grandmother cooked. So this week, instead of urban design thoughts I offer childhood memories and my interpretation of one of my grandmother’s greats.

When I was but a young C.Rushing growing up in Alabama attending Bear Elementary School, it seemed we were always having tornado drills. During drills (and storms) the kids and teachers would open all the doors and windows, huddle in the hallways and cover our heads with tented textbooks. I vividly remember the smell of the school and the texture of the ochre bookcovers. It’s hard to think about those storms without thinking about experiencing them with my brothers at Baba’s house as well. At her place, instead of hallways and textbooks, we found ourselves in a cast iron tub covered with a mattress. Of course, the aroma at Baba’s was that of fantastic food as opposed to the noxious cleaners and child sweat of the elementary school.

Bear Elementary. Probably not named for "the" Bear.

Baba doesn’t cook much any more and I don’t get to see her as much as I would like. When I’m feeling down, one of my melancholy pastimes is trying to recreate the smell of her kitchen. Let it be known that Baba made the best fried chicken in the history of proteins fried in lipids (The pulley bones at Martin's can give her a run, but they will never measure up). I know my limitations and can’t compete with her bird. However, I am not as daunted by her classic accompaniment. So this week head to Buehler’s, pick up some pork, grab some collards from a local farmer and have at this…

Collard Greens

4 lbs Collards – cleaned, thick stems trimmed and discarded, leaves roughly chopped

2 lbs Smoked Pork Neckbones
1 Smoked Ham Hock

Cider Vinegar

Salt and Pepper to taste

Put the neckbones and hock in a pot, cover with cold water, bring to a boil and let it go for 5 minutes.

Pull out the goodies, discard the water and rinse the pot. Rinse the meat off, return to the pot, cover with water, bring to a boil again then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 2 hours or so.

Take the meat out of the pot and reserve the cooking liquid. Pick the meat off the neckbones and hock, reserve. Discard the bones from the neck, but place the ham hock bone back in the pot with the reserved liquid.

Put the collards in the reserved cooking liquid along with the bone and bring to a boil. Once it boils, reduce to a lower simmer, cover and cook for 2 hours while stirring occasionally.

Add the meat back to the pot to warm through, adjust seasoning with a scant amount of vinegar to brighten things up. Season to taste with salt and pepper if you wish – but beware the pork parts will add a fair amount of saltiness.

Serve with pepper sauce and make sure you have cornbread to sop up the unctuous juice. Eat these with someone you love, then give them a hug.

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