Thursday, October 29, 2009

Honey, Suga Puddin', Iced Tea

The Mother Board. Not the coined term for the central printed circuit board in personal computers, but the group of distinguished, gracefully mature women that sit at or near the front of the church, dolled in all white on communion Sundays. They always had a smile on their faces and pocketbooks filled with peppermints. Those are some of my most vivid memories growing up at First Baptist of Quindaro in Kansas City, Kansas. By today’s mega church standards, my home church is quite small; however, growing up it was a key part of my upbringing. The congregation is tight-knit and I am embraced every time I re-visit those who witnessed my child rearing.

Many African-Americans can relate as growing up in the black church holds fond memories, from the long winded sermons (smile) to the Easter speeches, and who can forget Vacation Bible School. For many, food was an essential part of the black church and was present prior at any given afternoon service, prayer breakfast or circle tea. First Baptist was no exception. As a child, I recall several meals where the women of the church would congregate in our old basement kitchen and the air filling with the sounds of conversation and smells of fried chicken, collard and turnip greens, macaroni and cheese, dressing and gravy and freshly baked rolls. And who could forget that “church” punch! At that age I could not appreciate the loving tender care that went into home cooked meals. Like many children, all I wanted was McDonald’s and my mother being who she was, made sure to it that our visits to Mickey D’s did not exceed 3 times per year.

As an adult, I reminisce on the women who helped to mold my character and love for cooking, Mrs. Hopkins, Mrs. Donnell, Mrs. Carter, Mrs. Poindexter, Mrs. Campbell just to name a few. In between times of playing with my friends during meal preparation, I was fortunate enough to get a glimpse in the kitchen; taking mental notes on how to add the right amount of love and magic into meals I may create in the future. No doubt these recipes were the result of years of experience, tried and true dishes that likely graced their own dinner tables.

I grew up during the 80s, a time when residuals of the “old school” were still around. You know what I mean, if you were caught talking in church, you got the “look”, or a firm scolding. No, this was not from your own mother or father, but from any adult that was within earshot. At the time, I despised the discipline, but as an adult I have come to appreciate the different forms of love and nurturing whether it was in the form of a firm rebuke or a plate of good old fashioned home cooking.

And the church said, AMEN!

Collard Greens with Cornbread Dumplings
taken from the cookbook “Donnell Family and Friends Club”
2 smoked turkey wings, cracked at the joins and skins split
2 leeks, trimmed and roughly chopped
1 ½ tsp. dried red pepper flakes
1 Tbsp. granulated garlic
1 Tbsp. seasoned salt
1 ½ tsp. black pepper
4 c. water
2 Tbsp. red pepper flakes
6 bunches fresh collard greens, stemmed and roughly chopped

1 ½ c. white or yellow cornmeal
¼ c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
1 c. boiling water
Combine turkey wings, leeks, red pepper flakes, garlic, seasoned salt, pepper and water in a large stockpot and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the turkey meat is tender and begins to fall off the bones, about 45 minutes. Add the collard greens, stirring frequently at first to incorporate into the liquid. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot and simmer until the greens are very tender and most of the liquid has evaporated, about 2-3 hours.

When the greens are just about done, begin making the dumplings. Stir together cornmeal, flour, salt and sugar in a medium bowl. Slowly pour in the boiling water, stirring constantly to form a stiff dough. To finish the dish, drop teaspoons of the dough into the simmering collard greens, cover the pan, and simmer until the dumplings are puffed and fully cooked, about 20-30 minutes. Serve the greens, residual cooking liquid, turkey and dumplings in a large serving bowl. Serves 6.

“Church Punch”
1 48 oz. can pineapple juice
1 quart tropical punch
2 liters ginger ale
Combine, pour over ice and serve.

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