Back to basics

A surfeit of any one ingredient is a good test of ingenuity, or endurance, or both. It wasn’t until I faced the end of this latest greens heap that it occurred to me to reach back and approximate a familiar taste from my past: Plain greens, in all their vegetalmineral glory, cooked down with a hunk of pork into a sinewy-soft mass.

A side of greens is pretty standard fare in south Louisiana, where I grew up. I ate turnip greens and mustard greens from three generations of gardening ancestors, though I can’t remember having a very strong opinion of them, for good or ill. They were just there.

For a time, my family frequented a restaurant called ‘Round the Bend, which offered a bottomless pot of greens, served family style, to precede the meal. The greens were pretty good, especially when doused with pepper vinegar, though probably not good enough to explain my enthusiastic consumption of bowl after bowl. (That pre-adolescent appetite was more an appetite for attention than for the greens themselves. In the end I got both.)

Dandelion greens are hardly delicate, but they don’t stand up to the same kind of treatment as the muscular greens of my childhood. There is another Louisiana tradition—one which I’ve read about but which is not part of my culinary heritage—called gumbo zhebes (or z’herbes). It traditionally calls for seven different greens, though of course more is better. Beyond that—controversy abounds. Some begin with roux, some do not…. and it goes on from there. 000_0631

I was not interested in achieving authenticity. I was just interested in borrowing the “more is better” idea, using what I had on hand. My version had bacon, dandelion greens, ramps, chard, thyme, sorrel, cooked for around five minutes. The taste was surprisingly reminiscent of the greens at ‘Round the Bend—dark green and tangy and ever so slightly porky. I was sorry my pot was not bottomless.

Explore posts in the same categories: greens, heritage, weeds

One Comment on “Back to basics”

  1. […] full of beans adventures in nourishment « Back to basics […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: