Kale and Potatoes

This simple, hearty recipe is a perfect side for pork. The Irish call it calcannon, but you don’t have to.

For two servings, use one large starchy potato (russet) to a packed cup of raw, chopped kale. Cut potatoes into chunks, boil vigorously until very soft, and whip with milk and butter. These don’t have to be perfectly smooth; in fact, they’re better a little lumpy, if you ask me (and I know you didn’t).

Stew greens, drain, and toss with a melted butter. Mix potatoes and kale; season with salt and white pepper. Some people cook green onions with the kale, but they’re better as a garnish.

You can thin this basic recipe with milk or broth to make a soup, or you can spoon it into a casserole and bake with crumbled bacon and some type of dry cheese.

Good Luck, Dollar Greens, and Penny Peas

Like any Southern city, Jackson, Mississippi has residents from across globe who have good reason not to know they should have a pot of peas on the stove on Dec. 31 or Jan. 1, as well as people living in detached, pretentious affluence who consider peas, collard, mustard, and turnip greens, coarse, common, and unfit for their table.

Such people are by far the exception rather than the rule, and most people in Mississippi’s capitol city cook leafy greens and field peas at New Year in observance of regional tradition. Black-eyed peas entered the Southern repertoire by way of Sephardic Jews who settled in South Carolina, Georgia and Maryland well before the Civil War, and they brought with them their tradition of eating black-eyed peas at Rosh Hashana.

Stewed greens are usually served as well, because leafy cool weather crops thrive in our open winters. The type of greens is primarily a matter of preference, to a lesser extent of geography,  but invariably turnip or mustard, collard or cabbage, often a mix. As a cursory observation, cabbage is most often served in urban households, turnip and mustard greens in the country, and collards more often in the lower South, Georgia, and the Carolinas.

The tradition that associates these foods with financial prosperity is clouded in folklore, but then luck has always been associated with riches. In the past, people were known to have cooked peas with coins to ensure wealth, yet because of their shape peas are suggestive of coins, as leaf greens are of paper money, a more obvious analogy in this country where our currency is greenbacks.

However pecuniary, it’s comforting that the South’s traditional New Year’s table offers buoyancy for the uncertain future.

Hot and Sour Cabbage

Fry bacon until crisp, drain, and crumble. Add vegetable oil to pan drippings and stir in chopped cabbage with bacon. Toss/stir vigorously until cabbage is coated and just tender. Add pepper vinegar, black pepper, and salt to taste. Finely sliced sweet onions–cooked or raw–are a welcome option.