Sarasota Herald Tribune
Big Mama’s Collard Greens Festival brings people together
‘This is so important for unity, something that is especially important nowadays’
Desmond Hill, 63, stood beside his large metal wood-fired smoker, squinting in the afternoon sunlight.
He was helping to serve Southern and soul food to hundreds of hungry customers who came to Big Mama’s Collard Greens Festival on Saturday at the Robert L. Taylor Community Complex.
Hill owns D&R Barbecue on 18th Street and North Tuttle Avenue, and although he said he has a collard green recipe so good that he would take it to his grave, he wasn’t going to compete against community members and professional chefs who squared off with their versions of the dish.
“I’ve got a dern good collard green recipe,” Hill said. “I learned to cook from my father-in-law Jerome Stevenson, who, when you got through his smothered pork chops, you had heaven, that’s what you had.”
As he talked, he chopped slabs of ribs with an ax in a wooden box.
“Collard greens is special for the black community. It’s what we were raised on, a garden specialty. Sure this festival is about who can cook the best greens, but it’s really for the community of Newtown to get together. I mean, look at the people. They’re happy. That’s what I’m saying.”
In its second year, the festival moved from the Newtown Farmers Market to the larger Robert L. Taylor Community Complex.
For Barbara Nell Langston, 68, this allowed more people to appreciate how collard greens should be cooked, and how they should taste.
“They call it soul, but I guess that’s the sole part of it. We are trying to pass along to others exactly how to cook them the way they should be. All it is is love and what you season it with. You got to season it, and you got to love it.”
Langston spent all last week preparing her six bunches of collard greens. Her greens were tender, made with ham hock, smoked pig’s tail, salted pork and flavored with onions and garlic. Each batch was slow-cooked in chicken broth.
For Tyrone Mack, 43, the collard green festival is about bringing talented cooks from many different backgrounds.
“This festival allows folks from the outside and inside the community to taste something different. This is so important for unity, something that is especially important nowadays. Food is the universal thing that brings people together, and one day, if it didn’t, I don’t know what will.”
By Tim Fanning
Posted Oct 21, 2017 at 8:33 PM
Updated Oct 21, 2017 at 8:43 PM