Sure, I eat collard greens

“Collard greens are a staple vegetable in Southern U.S. cuisine. They are often prepared with other similar green leaf vegetables, such as spinach, kale, turnip greens, and mustard greens in the dish called “mixed greens”. Typically used in combination with collard greens are smoked and salted meats (ham hocks, smoked turkey drumsticks, smoked turkey necks, pork neckbones, fatback or other fatty meat), diced onions, vinegar, salt, and black pepper, white pepper, or crushed red pepper, and some cooks add a small amount of sugar. Traditionally, collards are eaten on New Year’s Day, along with black-eyed peas or field peas and cornbread, to ensure wealth in the coming year. Cornbread is used to soak up the “pot liquor”, a nutrient-rich collard broth. Collard greens may also be thinly sliced and fermented to make a collard sauerkraut that is often cooked with flat dumplings.” Wikipedia 

If you grow up in the South, sooner or later you’ taste collard greens. I love them, just as I also love spinach and mustard greens. My mother never cooked them because she grew up in the midwest and was familiar with midwestern foods. I always wanted to try new things and was the first (and only) person in the family to become addicted to boiled peanuts and stalks of sugar cane we chewed while walking down the street.

My wife who, unlike me, was born in the South, doesn’t like collard greens. So I buy mine at the store in cans. Dump the stuff out of a can, heat them on the stovetop, and they’re ready to eat. The same does for Hoppin John which, you guessed it, my wife doesn’t like either. It’s a nice mix of black-eyed peas, pork, and onions.

I like most Southern goods except for crawfish.

A lot of people make fun of Southern food, especially grits. I don’t understand that and figure most of the people making fun of grits have never shrimp and grits, a great low country dish. That goes well with a side of collards.

Plus, no matter what people say, the best fried chicken comes from the South.


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the Florida Folk Magic Series set in the Florida Panhandle of the 1950s.

Ain’t got no cigarettes or wisdom either

A commenter on my last post said, “Found a peanut? That’s your wisdom for the day?”

I’m neither a man of means nor the king of the road. That means I’ve made a dreadful mistake if I gave y’all the idea I have any wisdom to dispense. I’m just a country writer, folks, living on the remainder of a farm that’s been in the family for five generations. I’m writing about the South these days partly because I live here, though, with the current political environment, I hesitate to say I’m from the South because people in the social media and on some news programs are accusing those of us living here of starting the Civil War.

That’s absurd, of course, because none of us were here at the time. We’re called a lot of things because the country seems to enjoy making fun of the South, saying we’re all half ignorant and probably bumpkins even though some of the country’s best literature came from our part of the country.

Yes, we like grits and we consider sushi to be only good for baiting one’s hook on a fishing trip. So what?

I’ve been in almost every state in the union, went to college in New York, and lived and worked in the Chicago area. Nothing I’ve experienced or witnessed gives me any reason to think the South is better or worse than any other part of the country. It doesn’t take a guru to come to that conclusion. So, I’m okay with living here–except when the taunts against Southerners get started.

According to Wikipedia, “Wisdom, sapience, or sagacity is the ability to think and act using knowledge, experience, understanding, common sense and insight. Wisdom is associated with attributes such as unbiased judgment, compassion, experiential self-knowledge, self-transcendence and non-attachment, and virtues such as ethics and benevolence.” I don’t even know what that means, but I can tell you this, I ain’t got it.

If I need a dose of Wisdom, I get out my copy of the “I Ching” just like everyone else. The oracle always tells me what’s up and what’s going down.


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of magical realism and contemporary fantasy novels and short stories, including “Conjure Woman’s Cat.”



Comfort Food

Comfort food is food that provides a nostalgic or sentimental value to someone and may be characterized by its high caloric nature, high carbohydrate level, or simple preparation. The nostalgia may be specific to an individual, or it may apply to a specific culture. Wikipedia

Mac & Cheese – Wikipedia photo.

Wikipedia lists about thirty popular comfort foods for the United States. I like many of them, including mac & cheese. I don’t like the green bean casserole because I got tired of it soon after it first showed up in everybody’s houses. Mashed potatoes are fine, but I prefer them baked, preferably in an oven rather than a microwave. I love grits, always with a lot of butter on top. Cornbread is great, but cornbread dressing is wonderful.

We all have our favorites, the kinds of meals we could eat multiple times per week without getting tired of them.

Books as Comfort Food for the Mind

Every year, magazines, newspapers, and websites choose the best books of the year. Some of these may, in time, become “comfort food,” the books we read over and over.

I’ve read The Prince of Tides and A Scots Quair multiple times. One is set in the southern U.S., the other in Scotland. I never tire of these two books, as some people never tire of mac & cheese.  We find something new in the books we like best every time we read them. They inspire us in some way. They might even impact our life’s journey.

Whatever they do, we keep them on our nightstands as old friends, wise teachers, or worthy competitors.

Escape or Smart Choice?

Some people call fast food an easy way out, one that’s not very nutritious and probably has too much salt and fat in it.  That’s probably true. I don’t see our comfort foods and comfort books that way. They give us what we need for body and soul without allowing us to escape into stuff that really isn’t good for us. Comfort stuff gives us what we need, whether it’s a food, book, movie, song, game, or often-taken hike in the woods.

Some say that when you crave certain things, it’s because your body or your mind need them. I think that’s true–not counting addiction, of course. When I run out of factory fresh new books to read, I usually grab an old book off the shelf and read it again. It’s almost always the very best thing I could possibly read at that moment. There’s usually synchronicity in the book grabbed off the shelf with whatever the gods think I need to know, remember, or act upon. Perhaps the same thing can be said for mac & cheese and grits.


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the three-novel collection, “Florida Folk Magic Stories.”


Okay, who in my zip code is an Ashley Madison User?

When I saw the news story These Are the Only Three Zip Codes With No Ashley Madison Users, I would have bet money (a few dollars or so) that our little slice of NE Georgia was on the list.

Over 39,645,000 anonymous members!
Over 39,645,000 anonymous members!

After all, according the 2010 demographics, the population of this zip code is only 2,432.

But no, the cheat-free zip codes are Nikolai, Alaska (99691), Perryville, Alaska (99648) and Polvadera, New Mexico (87828).

Okay, I’ll stipulate that the population of all three of those zip codes combined is less than our “neighborhood.”

My theory is that the people in those zip codes are signing up under fake e-mail addresses that purport to come from our zip code.

It’s much easier to assume that than to think, hmm, I wonder if the guy who drove by in that old Ford pickup truck is “out on a date” while his wife cans okra at home.

gritspackagePlus, I always thought that those of us who like grits were ever faithful due to the influence of minerals from the granite millstones in the grits that activate the conscience. This is true whether you’re throwing a packet of Quaker grits in the microwave with 1/2 cup of water for 90 seconds or using more exotic recipes out of books like “Good Old Grits Cookbook” or “The Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. Cookbook.”

Maybe one clown in our zip code is allergic to grits and/or his/her spouse and ruined the reputation of the whole place when Santa looks at the naughty list. We need to find that person and lure them up to Perryville, Alaska where s/he will either ruin the place or jump on the hooker wagon and off the hookers.

Perhaps a brave soul will put up a fake call girl business card at the seed & feed and the tractor supply company and see if they get any hit-ons. If that fails, maybe our suspect works at a nearby college in, say, the drama department.

If that doesn’t work, we’re going to have to bribe somebody at the cheaters’ record-keeping department to say we’re not doing nothin’ we shouldn’t be doing. Or, make grits mandatory.


New Jock front CVR full sizeMalcolm R. Campbell is the author of “Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire,” a comedy/satire with a few characters who might be part of the Ashley Madison family.


True Grits at Thanksgiving

This morning’s bowl of grits reminded me of many Happy Thanksgivings in the Stewart family where Ma and I sat on the front porch watching traffic on County Road 777, happy that my dear old Daddy was in the barn sleeping off a week’s worth of extra partying. We were grateful for moments of silence punctuated by the sounds of our spoons clattering against the sides of our heaping bowls of grits and homemade butter.

“It takes true grits to live in a family like ours,” Ma always said.

“You’re right as rain, Ma.”

“Yep,” she would say. “Of course, if Pa were awake, we wouldn’t have heart-to-heart moments like this.”

“We still love him though.”


“Well then, I’m grateful for ‘mostly.'”

Good times, a lot of memories, grits and a fair amount of ‘mostly.’

Jock Stewart

When the Grits Trees are in Bloom

Grit Flower

“Giving Northerners unbuttered instant grits is an old remedy for getting rid of tourists.” — Lewis Grizzard, author of “Don’t Sit Under the Grits Tree with Anyone Else But Me.”

You know it’s spring in south and central Georgia when the grits trees are in bloom.

True grits, as the late Atlanta humorist Lewis Grizzard would attest, are not INSTANT: “The idiot who invented instant grits also thought of frozen fried chicken, and they ought to lock him up before he tries to freeze-dry collards.”

After a hearty breakfast of grits and red eye gravy, true Southerners drive south on I-75 through Macon into what was once Stuckeys and pecan praline country toward Tifton where, years ago, Captain Tift once built a saw mill in support of his family’s shipping business.

The captain was also into turpentine, tobacco, pecans, sweet potatoes and grits. Northern historians, thinking grits were made in factories, overlooked Tift’s grit orchards, so you won’t find them in your grade school history books. But those orchards flourish today and every year on March 25, the kind of people who might take exception to freeze-dried collards, head into the lush agricultural lands of Georgia’s coastal plain in search of evergreen trees with large white flowers.

Years before the white man knew there would one day be a Southern state named Georgia, the Apalachee Indians discovered that the natural result of crossing a Live Oak (Quercus virginiana) with a Southern Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) was the Grits Tree (Quercus grandiflora Zea mays).

Like pearls in oysters, Grits are created in the soft tissue of the tree’s magnificent flowers. In the late summer and early fall, Grits fall like rain from the trees where Grits Sweepers gather them into windrows that look like dunes of snow. They dry in the sun until they are ready to be vacuumed up and cast before swine in the form of bacon, ham, and breaded pork chops.

But in the spring, it’s the white grits flowers that attract the attention. The kind of person who would eat freeze-dried collards or who thinks red eye gravy is the airline food served on long, over-night flights, will mistake a grits flower for a magnolia blossom. Magnolias have a musky, cloying scent. Grits flowers smell like Waffle House.

True Grits are in the Bag

“Sitting under the grits tree” is a phrase that goes back to founding of Georgia Grits Day on March 25, 1901 in honor of the birth of Georgia Brown beneath such a tree near Tifton. Sitting under a grits tree is about jazz and having babies and eating red eye gravy on a hot summer afternoon when it seems like every breath of air between Macon and the Florida border smells like breakfast at a Waffle House.

There’s no love better than the love built with true grits. It’s Southern love and you can’t get it in a factory and you won’t find it in the hashed browns part of the country. Every March, we celebrate true grits, not the movie, but the food and all it stands for.

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the satirical novel, “Special Investigative Reporter” on Kindle for about the same amount as a steaming bowl of grits.