I imagine there are many dishes that define a person. You, for example, may feel an extraordinary kinship with macaroni and cheese. Your mom made it for you as a child, and you’ve since added your own interpretation to her recipe. When you taste the smooth texture of the noodles combined with the creamy, buttery cheese, you understand that yes, you are home.
Unquestionably, turnip greens and potlikker (pot liquor) define me. As a child, the only green vegetables I remember eating were turnip greens and okra. My grandmother always served the greens with a shot of potlikker and some corn bread for dipping into the potent brew.
Potlikker is the greens-enriched water that remains after you simmer your turnip greens for several hours. I’ll bet the vitamin and mineral content of potlikker could compete with a shot of wheat grass juice.
A vegetarian friend of mine from Savannah, tells me she seasons her greens with soy sauce and leaves the greens to simmer in a crock pot while she is at work. She adds minced garlic to the greens, along with the turnips, close to the end of cooking time.
After the greens have cooked, I spice them with a vinegar condiment that is fired up with hot peppers. It’s hard to find the pepper vinegar outside of the South, but pepper flakes and cider or white wine vinegar are a good substitute. I sometimes sandwich the greens between two pieces of cornbread and wash that down with a slug of potlikker.
I grow a patch of turnip greens in my Ann Arbor back yard and happily, they announced their arrival this morning, The beautiful rosy pink bulbs are popping up through the earth and, yes, I am home.