Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Hallelujah! The greens are in!

Hallelujah, the greens are in! It's turnip green season in South Carolina, and the crop this year has been more than fine, it's been abundantly fine. Mama made the mistake of letting people in town know that I love turnip greens, and now, bushels and bags and barrels of freshly picked leaves are showing up daily on the front porch. I'm not sure if it's generosity, or just an opportunity for some good souls to unload a morning's worth of work on a willing body. Oh, I do love them, yes I do, but it's a time consuming process in order to get them to the table. It takes a mountain of greens to make a mess. That means for every one serving of greens, you have to cook about a bushel of leaves, which must be washed, and washed, and washed again, then rinsed, and rinsed, and rinsed again. Unlike baptism, where one dunk will do, these earthen greens need a more thorough dipping to wash away the dirt.   All evidence of nature must be abolished, all sins of the earth wiped away, and even after all that, you still  have to strip them down to their barest soul.  The tender "eatin' part" has to be carefully stripped away from the fibrous, tough stalk that runs up the center of each leaf. Finally, they are thrown into a liquid purgatory and slowly boiled while chasing a piece of ham around the pot, until all the bitterness is cooked out of them.  It's a heavenly moment when they are lifted from the stove and served up at the table, especially if you've got a jar of Mama's artichoke relish and some hot cornbread on the side. If you haven't ever eaten a fresh pot of greens, shame on you. I pray that someday you'll be given the chance to experience a little dish of heaven right here on earth.

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