With a Side of Dry-Roasted Meat.
Like most addictive substances, greens are an acquired taste. Remember the first time you tasted alcohol? Didn’t it seem inconceivable to you at the time that anyone could like that taste? And if you had known how much trouble it is to produce wine, beer, or spirits, wouldn’t a passion for it seem not only gross, but down right unnatural? Such is the case with greens. What tastes like dirt to others, to its lovers is earthy; where others taste metal, its lovers taste minerals. Greens require lots of soaking because, well, they’re dirty. They sometimes need par-boiling because, well, they taste like iron. After these preparatory purges of huge unwieldy heads of greens, you end up with a small pile of green mush. What but addiction could explain anyone’s going to such lengths?
Well, poverty might could explain some of it. No doubt my people’s knack for making greens delicious goes back to that mating of poverty with resourcefulness that gave birth to their cooking. They were poor. Greens are both easy to find in the byways and easy to grow in abundance. The tender stuff, especially the hearts, can be eaten raw in salads. But what to do with the tough, the bitter, the metallic? That’s when ingenuity enters in, and cooking gets started.
Such culinary ingenuity should not be taken for granted. It is yet another witness to human omnivorousness. One might expect animal appetite to tend naturally toward the pleasant and away from the painful. But human beings like the sour as well as the sweet; the fiery as well as the mellow; the bitter as well as the salty. The human palate enjoys being pinched, bitten, burned, desiccated, and generally roughed up, now and again. We can get interested in the full gamut of tastes and feels. Why? Because our senses are the mediums of our minds, and we like to perceive and contemplate all that there is. We are omnivorous.