I sat over a plate of turnip greens, cabbage, baby lima beans and a trinity of fried chicken things.
Gizzards, livers and thighs, oh my!
Across the table sat my lunch companion. I know her as Gran.
She asked me a question that I get a lot. “When did you start to eat this stuff?” I laughed, and stared at the remnants of what used to be vegetables, only now as pot likker, and few stray beans. Granted, many of them veggies were cooked down with pork, but damn, was it good.
My answer to her question?
I have no idea.
Look back far enough on this blog, and you’ll see a bit of that change. Learning how to love and care for food in Portland was substantial. It’s a town full of folks who take it seriously. I thought chefs were bad ass and I wanted to be one. I knew I’d have to start eating pretty much everything I could. Let it be known, I am not obsessed with the glorification of what it means to be a chef. It is hard and most of the time, thankless work. I assure you, if you cook food for a living, people will, though I don’t quite deserve it, call you a chef.
I was anxious to learn how to cook and eat the food of my own people. I don’t want that to be lost on my generation. I want to own and absorb it. If I do ever have kids, I want them to know what it’s like to have gravy drippin’ off them elbows and that proper grits take a little time.
Embracing food is to take in a place. It’s to breathe in smoke and spice. Some places, you have to take it slow. I was shown what food could be — how acid and salt and fat create layers and depth.
Like a good story, food is passed on through our bones, and onto the bones of our kids.
It echoes deep, and it’s eternal.
It is repetition. Ritual.
At its most basic, survival.
So, where do I go from here…
I’m not going to tell you what to do.
That you should stop feeding your kids this or that. I have my own convictions, and it’s not my place to speak into any of that.
I do know that there’s always time to open up.
There is always time to do something you wouldn’t have done yesterday. And there’s something else new you can do tomorrow. It builds and builds, and you will look at yourself and say, “Whoa, I kinda like that!”
And you grow and grow and grow, as tall as a tree or maybe just high enough to see over a fence.
You’ll find yourself slurpin’ down pot likker and it will drip off your chin.
That’s what I’m catching up on. Feeling a food. Learning shapes and smells.
Turnips and peas and summer time tomatoes.
I was never the boy who ate his vegetables.
But today, I closed my eyes, made myself present,
and ate em’ all up.