By Sam Burnham
Hang on, hang on, hang on. This is almost too ridiculous to even be true. This atrocity was brought to my attention by an attentive Twitter follower who wanted to make sure that we knew about it.
Neiman Marcus is adding precooked and then frozen collard greens to their holiday offerings. For $66 plus $15.50 shipping, you can purchase and have delivered to your home servings of collard greens with seasoning and bacon. Yes, this is the same Neiman Marcus that you are thinking about.
I was torn by which story to address with this post after a Mississippi attorney filed suit after choking on fried chicken because "Popeye's didn't include a knife in his to-go packet." This is completely absurd as a three year old can demolish some chicken legs without getting choked out but someone who successfully completed law school and passed the bar exam is gagging himself and blaming it on someone else. I'm guessing that he's not originally from Mississippi as no one born and raised in Iuka, Itta Bena, or Quitman is sitting around watching fried chicken go to waste because they can't find a knife. After some consideration, I decided that this attorney is the sort of person who would order pre-seasoned, precooked, frozen collard greens from Neiman Marcus. The dependency on such prefabricated foolishness leaves people with a false sense of Southern-ness that could apparently get them killed. or worse. Therefore the Neiman Marcus incident poses a greater threat to the stability of civilization so we're going after that one.
First things first. Collards are essential to the holidays, especially New Years Day. That's just how it is. But if you are going to eat them, you have to do it right. There are no short cuts. I mean look at that picture above. Are those Bacos? I bet they think that liquid is called "pot liquor" (We've covered that too). All these things need are a tagline that informs shoppers that this product has been certified as authentically Southern by the New York Times. I'm not even going to chase that rabbit right now.
Now. Above this text, you'll find authentic Southern greens. Bacon is acceptable for seasoning meat but it would be preferable to use fatback, streak-o-lean, a ham hock or pork jowl. You don't have to see little bits of pork all through the greens. If you do it right, you'll know it's there.
The smell of greens cooking is a special thing. To the uninitiated it could be misconstrued as unpleasant. No one catches a whiff of that aroma and wonders if someone is cooking greens. One whiff and your first reaction is to smile and say "someone is cooking greens." It's a lot like barbecue in that respect except the evidence fills just the house as compared to the whole neighborhood showing up looking for ribs. So there's a better chance of keeping greens a secret.
Greens are a very healthy food. They are loaded with vitamins and minerals. They offer fiber, iron and the pork can boost the protein. I've had them with beans and I've had them with rib eye steak and they are just as appropriate with either.
But the catch is they need to be authentic. Too many grandmothers worked far too hard for too many generations to make sure that we all had the glorious experience of real Southern greens to cheapen the experience by ordering some impostor product from Neiman Marcus. Don't do it. Not even once.
This holiday season, don't order collards from Neiman Marcus. And don't pay anyone eighty bucks for them either. Get them fresh, as they are in season during holidays. You can buy them at the grocery store or from someone growing them in the yard.
That's all for now, but I'm sure there will be more misuse of Southern culture in the near future. The struggle continues...
By Sam Burnham
I was back in Atlanta for an appearance on GPB's On Second Thought on Friday. Afterwards, I headed back over to Home grown GA for a Comfy Chicken Biscuit and also to talk to Kevin Clark, chef and owner of that establishment. After my review of Home grown, he had contacted me wanting to talk.
I can't imagine meeting a friendlier or more personable guy anywhere. He spoke of his employees and his customers as if they were his friends and neighbors...because mostly they are. He pointed out that people were happy to be there. It wasn't like North Korean propaganda. He was really stating the obvious. The dainty fork, coffee, and egg flowers on the logo are not some feel good facade. They represent the place as much as any image can.
But down to business. We talked about a well-known chain that can be found in the area, and likely in yours as well. This establishment, like many others, has signs reading "Please reserve booths for parties of two or more". He explained, in modern business spreadsheet style there is a formula to figure out how much money a seat is worth. One person at a table for four is costing the business three seats worth of cash. "I don't care about that" was his feeling on the formula. He stressed that he trains his employees to pay attention to the guests to the point that if someone returns, they get recognized and treated accordingly. For him, the business is not about formulas or spreadsheets. It's about people. If his customers are happy with their experience, he is happy. And as counter-intuitive as that sounds, he's running a successful business. He's making a living with happy employees and happy customers.
This all goes back to many experiences over my life that have taught me this simple business model: Provide a quality product or service, buy and sell via deals that are good for all parties involved, treat employees and customers as if they are important (because they are), and run an honest business.
This business model is not a secret. I'm not pretending to be promoting an idea I hatched in the drone of the tractor the other day. This is the business model that made Truett Cathy and Sam Walton very wealthy men. It's the business model used by the company that employed my dad in my youth. It's the business model a former employer of mine used to run a successful business out of a shed in his back yard for over 20 years without a business card, much less a web site.
No, what I'm sharing is not new. But it is the way of ABG to pick up something that hasn't been used in a while, dust it off, polish or paint it, and offer it up to anyone willing to look. So here it is, a fool proof business plan that has been used by people with household names for centuries but is quite neglected by large businesses in America. Use this plan. Do business with other people who use this plan. No matter how big your business gets, be too small, too friendly, too service-driven, too successful to fail.
By Sam Burnham
The search for stories, photos, adventure, and vintage goods carries us all over this state and beyond. Ringgold, near the Tennessee line is a frequent destination. This quaint Southern town has a vibrant downtown in which shops, businesses, and restaurants fill the historic downtown buildings.
On our last visit there, we asked the cashier The Ringgold Feed & Seed where we should eat. We wanted somewhere locally owned and operated. Her recommendation carried us to Richard's.
Richard's is one of those places every Southern town should have. The waitresses, quick with a "sweetheart", run around working like bees but, when asked about it, claim that they don't have very much to do.
The menu rotates. Oh you can get a burger or pork chop any day of the week but each day has two entrees and if you want one of them, you go on that day. The sides rotate somewhat as well to correspond with the meat of the day.
I wasn't hankering for meatloaf or Italian roasted chicken, so I took those fried pork chops from the everyday menu. As much as I like applesauce with my pork chops, the fried okra and mashed potatoes with white gravy called out and I went with that. Leigha took the meatloaf and the same sides, hold the gravy. I think she was disappointed that I didn't choose different sides so we could critique further but now we can offer two votes for the fried okra and mashed potatoes. Especially the okra, which was not mushy or messy. It was crisp like it should be. very tasty. The mashed potatoes were tasty as well.
The meatloaf was moist, they are generous with the onion and ketchup. It was very flavorful. Leigha says it was just how she likes it. The pork chops were a generous portion. They were breaded and cooked in a manner so that they didn't reduce to meat and mush once I started cutting them. They we delicious and I would definitely choose them again. Cornbread muffins and sweet tea rounded the meal out well.
The friendly atmosphere and the locals on a first name basis with the wait staff combined with an excellent meal and an great price (we both ate for under $20) make Richard's worth the short drive past the Cracker Barrel and other chain joints that sit just off the interstate. If you are hungry in the Ringgold area, get off at Exit 348, drive on into town and give them a try.
Richard's Restaurant and Catering is located at 906 Lafayette St in Ringgold. They are open Mon-Fri 6:30 am to 8 pm and Saturday 7 am -11 am.
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire