Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Collard greens & things.

It was an accident.

I was stewing up collard greens for the first time ever (following the recipe I found on the back of the package like a newfound religion). The whole bag of green was in the pot, as were the two cans of chopped tomatoes and dab of Italian dressing. I knew some put a neck bone inside for flavor’s sake, but that wasn’t happening tonight. Not on a Wednesday night and certainly not in my house.

It was taking too long to boil. I wasn’t accustomed to this stovetop, though, so it’s entirely plausible that I hadn’t turned it up high enough. I’m plenty familiar with this almost year-old kitchen of mine, but the slipup was made. When I was stooping over a little too far and listening all too closely for the first sign of bubbles from underneath the leaves, my heart fell out. Right out my mouth and into the biggest pot I owned, and with the loudest belly flop of a sound I’d heard in these walls.  It was before the piano bar across the street had started with its nightly (and consistently awful) stabs at the Bon Jovi catalog, too. Because this was the case, it was extra loud. A plop and echo, tied at the hips neither had.

And I stared at it a long time, I guess in disbelief. The water had at last started to boil then and, in that flash that so often accompanies the memory, I was taken back to the Missouri farm of my youth, in a time when my mom would pasteurize cow’s milk and send me out some mornings to chip ice off the cow’s trough with a wee hatchet. Once (and only once), she’d cooked a cow’s heart, probably as one of her several money-saving tactics. Though I don’t remember how it tasted or even if we ate it period, I do recall it filling up a pot much larger than this one. The heart itself was the size of a bowling ball. Bigger maybe. My heart, then, was considerably smaller by comparison. Maybe it’s because I didn’t use it as much as I should have. Speculation? I’m allowed.

Anyway, by the time I had the sense to drop my excuse of a heart in a strainer and cool it off before attempting to slip it back to where it originally was, it’d been tenderized and toughened. Prepared and well done, like the steaks I never ordered (medium rare, that’s me). It sounds weird to even put this thought out there like this—and I think it’s just one of those things I can sense since it’s, well, mine—but it’s actually worlds better than it was before.  What I once thought was an accident, I take that back. There are no accidents and this was supposed to happen and you know the rest. Call it serendipity if you want. Now my once weak, pining, crybaby of a heart has been made stronger, more durable and all kinds of longer lasting, like the best sorts of advertised AA batteries. And here’s what else I know: it’s unbreakable, too. I feel a little less, lean on logic more than emotion now. I am a fixed, even cured, man.

The collard greens were really pretty great, by the way. As far as hot, stewed greens go, there was more flavor there than I’d have ever expected. Who says you need a neck bone? If you’ve never made a meal of them, go ahead and give it a shot sometime. You just might like yourself more for doing so.


chelle. said...

this is fantastic. thanks.

plainoldsarah said...

i tried that recipe by the way. and you're right - delicious!

this was a good piece, too. thanks.

Kate said...

I like you, Dainon.

Stella said...

Tender hearts, though a prettier shade than their counterparts, seem to sell the romantic comedy goods. But, those deliciously pink and juicy hearts are susceptible to all kinds of disease and distortion. Don't let my twenty-year-old-self hear me say this, but there is something in that purplewhite I imagine my cooked heart to resemble that's a bit more Streep and a lot less Swift. Seems like some folks crave that emotional roller coaster of instability. Seems like they never become too high to ride that ride. Seems like people never realize that with such a purple heart, one can actually take off that seatbelt, get off that track, and really figure out how to soar.

Good writings.