It gives me no pleasure to make this admission. In fact, it is with great sadness that I share this with you. If put on the witness stand to testify, as I most surely expect that I would be, just like Lieutenant Colonel Markinson in “A Few Good Men,” I would say: I don’t want a deal and I don’t want immunity. I want you to know that I am proud neither of what I have done nor of what I am doing.
Like most kids, I feel like my mom is the best cook of every type of food. Her fried chicken is the best, her macaroni and cheese, her potato salad, her sweet tea etc — all of it, the best. So much so that when I’m out at restaurants I don’t even order the foods that are on my Mom’s repertoire of top tens because I know a restaurant could never measure up.
So please understand that I never intended to try my man’s collard greens and I certainly never intended to do a comparison with my Mom’s. See, what had happened was, my man invited me over to cook me dinner. This was early in the relationship so we weren’t living together yet. As we were walking up the stairs to his apartment he said that the food was almost ready but before we ate he’d be making some collard greens. Hearing this I was, as my mom would say, took off my feet. Which is to say, I was shocked.
You’re going to make collard greens?! For dinner tonight? How is that possible? In my family, collard greens take hours upon hours to make. Cleaning them takes an hour then boiling them in a vat of water with bacon grease, ham-hocks and neck bones takes several hours. I’m talking several. The longer you boil them the better. That way the collards really start to take on the taste of the pork.
Getting to Chad’s house at 7pm and hearing that he was going to start make collard greens then, I figured we were not going sit down to eat until 1 or 2 in the morning. I was pissed at what was clearly is poor lack of time management.
I communicated this to Chad and he assured me that the collard greens would only take a few minutes to make.
A few minutes? A few minutes?! Come again? How is it that in your kitchen collard greens only take a few minutes when it takes every self respecting Black person a few hours? I felt like Joe Pesci in “My Cousin Vinny” cross-examining the witness about grits:
“How could it take you five minutes to cook your grits when it takes the entire grit eating world twenty minutes?… Are we to believe that boiling water soaks into a grit faster in your kitchen than on any place on the face of the earth?… Well perhaps the laws of physics cease to exist on your stove! Were these magic grits?!”
There was just no way that this White man managed to effectively cook a dish in 5 minutes that takes a minimum of 5 hours in a Southern Black kitchen.
I felt like saying to Chad, “Are these magic collard greens?! Do the laws of physics not exist in your Brooklyn fourth floor walk-up?”
He then said, collard greens don’t take hours to make. That the longer I cook them the more nutrients I remove from the green. What? I was sure this statement was poppycock or trickery. Another example of White people thinking they know something when they have no idea or outright lying.
When we walked into his apartment I watched him very closely at the stove. Indeed, it took him only a few minutes to “cook” them. I noticed right away that the greens looked much brighter and more vibrant than my mother’s. (Also that there were no ham hocks or neck bones in them but, honestly, I wouldn’t expect a White man to use pork butt in his vegetables). That said, I was sure the color was a sign that the greens were underdone and that I’d die from some version of collard green salmonella.
There was just no way that this White man managed to effectively cook a dish in five minutes that takes a minimum of five hours in a Southern Black kitchen. I then tasted the greens. And yeah, they had a nice brightness and crunch to them and even though there was no pork in them they had a lovely flavor. As the evening wore on, at no point did I have to rush to the bathroom to throw up from food poisoning.
It slowly dawned on me that my family’s method of making collards may not be the only legitimate way. May not even be the best way. Oh my God. This felt like a betrayal to my African-American roots. But I had to acknowledge the truth, these collards tasted really good and I appreciated that they maintained their color and possibly even more of their nutritional value. Could it be that not only can some White men jump, but some can also cook collard greens? Clearly yes, because here was proof sitting right across the dinner table from me.