Strawberry Chard Salad with Honey Poppyseed Dressing

Though like many gardeners in the Deep South I grow leaf vegetables and greens (the latter distinguished as pot vegetables) during our mild winters as much for their beauty as for their taste—the lemon-yellow spikes of bolting mustard and collard provide luminous company for spring dandelions and daffodils in this part of the world—Swiss chard, despite its bold greens and reds, rarely finds a space on the street corner, so I was delighted when my buddy D.J. Baker brought me two beautiful bunches of chard this past weekend.

“Let me know what you do with them,” he said.

Late March and early April is strawberry season here, and my salad greens are in their prime, so I took D.J.’s chard, mixed them with spinach, curly lettuce and bok choy, topped them with sliced Louisiana strawberries. The dressing is a vinegar and oil emulsion, a half cup each, with something like a quarter cup of honey, a teaspoon of dry mustard, a tablespoon of poppy seeds and salt to taste. Now, you’re going to have to use either a whip and a lot of elbow or a mixer (I can’t recommend a blender for such a small amount) because the seeds will clump. I added a dollop of red wine for color.

Hot and Sour Fried Cabbage with Bacon

Fry bacon until crisp, remove, drain and slice into small pieces. Chop or shred cabbage finely. Heat pan drippings, add cabbage and bacon with more oil (vegetable) as needed. Stir vigorously until cabbage is coated and just tender. Add hot pepper vinegar or hot sauce, ground black pepper and salt to taste. Finely sliced sweet onions–cooked or raw–are always a welcome option.

 

Valediction of the Confederate Monument at the University of Mississippi

The student government has voted unanimously to take me down, and to those good young persons, I will say thank you with all my heart. For a hundred and thirteen years, I have stood my post and watched down University Avenue without complaint. Now I am weary. The century has grown shrill, crowded, oversized, jagged with foolish contention, and I am ready to join my comrades in the cemetery, where I pray I will be left in peace at last.

Before I go, however, I would offer some thoughts for contemplation.

To the few who still feel kindly toward me, I urge you to accept the inevitability of my passing. Every age must give up its artifacts soon or late; those who surrender them must mourn, and you are chosen. Honor your ancestors, but remember that the past does not belong to you; it is the province only of those who lived it, and you would do well not to claim for yourselves that which you have not earned.

To the good young persons, be aware you are making the world you will have to live in. Take care you do not mistake smug self-righteousness for moral courage (anyone can remove a statue–it is no great victory). Keep in mind that history, unlike morality, has no absolutes; a person who views the past with no appreciation of its ambiguity is not only ignorant, but vain.

Finally, there can be no real inclusiveness. Someone always gets left out, and one day it will be you. When that day comes, what monuments will you have to mourn? Or, in your eagerness to embrace an Eternal Present, will you leave no monuments at all?

Farewell, then. I will go now and stand watch over the dead, who care nothing for the opinions of the living. Neither do they demand anything of you, save to be left alone. Deo Vindice.

Recorded by Howard Bahr,
University of Mississippi Class of 1976

Photo: Joshua House

 

The Velvet Wok

Like many of you, I own a wok—actually I have two—and I enjoy Asian cuisine, particular the many cuisines of China, but for as long as I have been cooking Chinese dishes, I’ve never been able to replicate at home the tenderness of meats I’ve found in good Chinese restaurants. Of course I’ve tried tricks like shaving the beef and marinating the chicken for hours, but the meat always seemed chewy.

Now I know why. It’s a simple technique, and while in these hurly-burly times it may be considered a little time-consuming (a half-hour or so), it’s worth it, particularly if you’ve gone to the trouble of slicing and dicing the meats and vegetables and assembling the other ingredients. The technique is called “velveting”, which I’m given to understand is a (very) rough translation of the Mandarin word/phrase for the process, which involves coating the meat (seafoods as well) with a slurry of cornstarch, egg white and soy or rice vinegar. Not much is needed, 3 tablespoons (1/4 cup) of corn starch to one egg white, and enough vinegar or soy to make a thin paste. Coat your meat with this mixture (add a little salt if you use rice vinegar; you can use white vinegar, but I wouldn’t recommend apple: it’s just counter-cultural). Set this mixture aside for that half-hour, then toss it into a heated oiled wok (or whatever) and stir until the meat has separated and cooked through. Remove and set aside, cook your other ingredients (garlic FIRST!) and add your velvet meat last, mixing it in well before serving.

This works VERY well with the cheap cuts of beef I use. Mind you, I still cool beef and chicken to near freezing and slice as thinly as I can before the velveting, but it does make a dramatic difference, especially with beef, pork and shrimp.