If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium

Published 8:29 am Thursday, October 26, 2023

  Silly title, right? I don’t think I saw the movie. If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium was a 1969 movie about Americans on an eighteen day tour of Europe. Therefore, if was Tuesday, the itinerary put them in the nation of Belgium.
            I use that to begin my discussion of a familiar subject; that of me and seasonal cooking. If it’s October and I have just asked the meat department at one of our local groceries if they have some fresh pigtails, then it must be time for cooking some variety of greens.
            A few weeks ago I was visiting a church member and he asked me if I wanted to see his garden. “Of course,” I replied. We got in his Gator and drove to his garden where he pointed out the rows of different vegetables.
            “That’s turnips, that’s rutabagas, that’s broccoli, and these four rows are collards,” he proudly announced. I noticed there was one variety in another spot and they were much further along than those he had just showed. “Mustard,” he said.
            The leaves were already about three fingers wide and I thought, I’ll come back in a week or so and get a mess. Which brings the question, “How much is a mess?”
            The mess of which I speak is not quite the same kind of mess that we find our nation and world in these days. That’s more mess than I want, I will assure you! A mess in the sense of eating is the amount that can be eaten in one setting.
            I was too busy to get back to his garden last week, but did go by the grocery store and got some pigtails, just in case. The pigtails sat in the fridge for a week until I had the time to go to the mustard patch and, man, was I surprised.
            The three-fingered leaves had grown to about the size of two hands put together. It took just a minute to get enough to fit in my pot so I filled my plastic grocery bag and asked my friend, “How do you wash your greens?”
            He said he had a galvanized, tin wash tub. I think it was one of those old-timey tubs like my grandparents had and I might have taken a bath in when I was just a youngster. After I made sure he hadn’t taken a bath in it, I asked him if he minded if we washed the mustard in his tub. It would be “easy-peasy.”
            The greens were not too dirty and it only took about four times to rinse them clean and I left his house with a bag full of fresh, ready to cook, mustard greens. They would be my first of the year!
            My twelve gallon stock pot was ready and I put the four large pigtails in and covered them with water and added a little salt, almost too much. Set the timer for 45 minutes and boiled the meat, then added the freshly picked and cleaned greens. Re-set the timer for another 45 and brought them to a boil.
            Of course they stunk up the house, but if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. I stirred them every now and then, turned the eye on the stove to a slow boil and, at the end of the time, the greens were so tender and tasty. Had ‘em for breakfast this morning.
            I mentioned the mess that the world is in and that’s true. I started a column about that, but what would you rather read? A few words about a mess of greens or a world that’s falling apart? 

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