Collard Greens This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   "These things are nasty! Why can't I eat something else? Can't I have some potatoes or something?"

"I don't know who's gonna to make 'em for you. You better eat what's on your plate."

This conversation happened many times, especially when we ate something that I couldn't stand. I would always beg for something different, because I hated most vegetables. My grandmother would always give me the "I don't know who's gonna fix it for you" speech, so you knew that I was going to end up eating whatever was on my plate anyway. But there was one dish I really couldn't stand.

"They taste like grass! Look like it, too." Still I protested, but it was no use. I was going to have to eat them sooner or later. My grandfather tried to help by telling me to eat what I didn't like first, but there was no convincing me to put grass into my mouth.

I hated collard greens, and that's all there was to it. We ate them all the time, it seemed. Even though I only had a little compared to everyone else, it was still too much. These leaves that were cut into strands resembling blades of grass didn't do anything for me. For years these had been one of my enemies. But when I was fifteen, something changed my life and my eating habits forever.

My grandmother suddenly died, and it seemed my family would never recover. Our lives, mine in particular, were changed forever. This was the only mother I ever knew. Who would take care of me?

When everyone came home for the funeral, all the relatives helped and cooked for everyone. After they went home, though, it was just my grandfather and me. He could cook, but not like my grandmother had. We found ourselves in a bind, because we had no one to take care of the house. He worked all day and I went to school and played sports. At the end of the day, we were both tired.

For a while, we ate fast food, but soon he found someone to take care of the house and cook. I hated the idea, but it had to be done. Cleaning the house went well (though my grandmother had done it better), but her cooking was one thing that had to grow on me. My system was shocked, because I had been eating tasty soul food, and now I was eating who-knows-what. It was so bland, completely void of flavor. Believe it or not, I wished I was eating collard greens. Anything was better than this person's cooking.

My grandfather tried to help by teaching her some of my grandmother's recipes. He even tried to cook on occasion. I'm glad he did, because I couldn't stand eating her food all the time.

It must have been a few months before I asked for some collards. I couldn't believe what I was doing! This was the most hated food of my childhood, but now I needed them. Perhaps I needed a reminder of things past, or something that actually had flavor. I don't know, but when he made them, I was the one who ate the most. They tasted great.

This opened more doors to foods that I wasn't particularly fond of when I was young such as black-eyed peas, cabbage, and anything else green. Now I can't get enough of these foods.

I've learned to eat almost anything now, because when you're starving, you don't taste anything, which will come in handy when I go to college. I never thought that collard greens would have a big effect on my life. They help me remember the good times at the dinner table with my grandmother when I was younger.

I'll always remember the ongoing battle of wills between my grandmother and me, which she always won. I won't forget how much I longed for soul food, a little taste of the South. It taught me to appreciate the things that I have, because they can slip away forever. c


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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