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
Lest everyone think I have forgotten our small town idea that we were discussing back before I went on the grand Virginia pilgrimage, I'd like to revisit that thought for a few.
As many of you probably already know, I am a Disney fanatic. That's often thought to be an odd thing for a Southerner who leans heavy towards traditional conservatism but trust me, it works. I say that to transition into my thought for today. At the end of the movie "Tomorrowland, Frank Walker (George Clooney) and Casey Newton (Britt Robertson) are sending out the scouts to track down the right people to help make Tomorrowland the successful idea generator that it should be. Their targets were to be described as people who haven't given up, dreamers, and people who "feed the right wolf". Frank Walker also said that "It's not hard to knock down a big evil building that's telling us that the world is gonna end. What's hard is figuring out what to put in it's place."
I think that is a great illustration that stands before us if this idea is to become a reality. These small towns need some dreamers. They need people who haven't given up. They need people who have unique ideas as I'm not sure that any one idea is going to revive every small town. Each town has its own answer. We have to have folks that can find each one. It has to be someone that loves that place and works hard to make it happen.
But just as it was easy to destroy that big evil building, it's easy for me to identify that we live in a culture that favors big cities and big governments. The difference is that we can't knock that monster down until we determine what is going in its place. Once the small town option is real and alive, the big city beast will fall and those places will be just another place to live and work. People want this to happen. It must be done.
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire