Cheryl Butler

(07/26/1970 / queens ny)

I love my African American Mom


Growing up an African American woman, in my life holds a lot of thought provoking stories! I grew up in an urban city to a single mom of eight kids.I love or traditions here in our country for American African women! I love our tradition of cooking.In this country, we have the custom of Mother's and daughter's here cooking together.My favorite dish for us is soul food cooking.I love cooking Collard Greens.I've been cooking them for th past twenty year's. I am now at the point without me I love my African American Momat in them! I've really grown and it shows.My mom who was born and breed in Georgia. A southern peach.She taught me how to cook them very well, you see I was the youngest of her eight.I used to stay with her in the kitchen all the time! I learned very good recipes from her.In tradition, the women always at big, dinners, would be together in kitchen talking, and cooking all night, but usaully it would be me and my mom because my sisters were older, grown women.I loved helping my mom though.

She taught me about the cooking of Collards. She taught me first the cleaning method.Collards are always in dirt.You have to clean them really well.My mom told me'the best Collard Greens are the ones cleaned right''If not cleaned right they are disgusting'. If they are not cleaned right they usually have dirt in them or they taste gritty.That's how you know they are not cleaned right.They have to be cleaned right!

My daughter is learning how to make her Greens.This is her third year cooking them! Last year she couldn't get the cleaning right nor could she stand the waiting to cook them she cooked them too fast but this year she is learning the cleaning a lot better!

My mom taught me when you clean Collards, you start by cutting off  the stems and then ripping out the veins.The next thing you do is soak the Greens in lukewarm water to loosen any dirt(with greens just assume that there's dirt, even if you get the bagged ones) .Once they soak, you rinse with very cold water, fold them, then cut up or tear apart. Now the length in time for cooking greens varies depending on time of season for greens and how 'sweet 'they are.you can usually tell, by their color.I always try to get my Collards from local groceries farm instead of the bagged kind (those are not good! They don't cook well, for some reason) !

My mom told me, ' You can always see, What goes on, in your life, at the time, by how you cook your Greens.Usually, you start by, being impatient.You usually at a young age.I was in my twenties before I actually started cooking them.I lived with my ex-boyfriend (he was from the south, he couldn't cook) .I was very impatient wanted them to be cooked right away! Even, though I knew better! I would season them well, but the flavor would be awful and bitter! I knew better but I just wanted them to be done fast! I hated putting vinegar in my Collards(my mom never did her's was amazing!) .I would have to though to try to get rid of the bitterness.I learned patience later (as will my Daughter) .
 My Mom's recipe and method for her' Fried, Veggie Collards'. She would often cook her Collards without meat.When she first came to Connecticut.Then, her cousin told her to put meat in them, 'cause that's the way people here like them'.My mom did it but, first her Veggie greens: she would first start with tomatoes, she loved them in her greens, she would sautee them and the other veggies, then take them out.She would then cook down her greens in the pot and and veggies.She would let them smother depending on the season.They would come out amazing!

She then from there taught me how to cook them with meat.I liked the Veggie Greens more, but I did as my mom taught me.She was right about the way and when you cook them tells about your life!
When I was in my twenties, I was young and impatient, but after I had my kids.I learned to be patient and let them cook and even add a little brown sugar in the pot to sweeten and  mustard to spice up! I was a new mom and learning to be patient, and sweet, but still discipline my children was a life lesson shown in how I cooked them, as I got older, I would look for ways to cook them without all the extra calories of meat and fat.I started to cook them with turkey, chicken.trying to lean it up! At, that point in my life, i was getting rid of all the people and things that were just extra bagagge stuff I didn't or my children didnt need.It was those people and things I got rid of! All the pork! I was in my thirties by then, I cared about what me and my kids at and how we lived more!

Now, that I'm in my forties, I feel a lot wiser, I love My African American Heritage, I love my Afro with silver hair sprinted all over.
I love the fact, I can look at my kids with pride.I taught them common sense and dignity! even though it was hard! Being a single mom of two taught me how important Mom was in me becoming a woman and that I learned so, much just sitting in the kitchen with my Mom.
I now, cook my greens without meat! My kids love em! Im not sure yet what that means in my life.I guess in ten years I will be writing it out to you! before my Mom passed away in 2002, I would always be the good daughter and come to see her and bring my kids for visits. My daughter loved my mom and she loved her I would go to pick her up and they would be in the kittchen cooking?
She taught my daughter her recipe for biscuits(my  mother refused to give me that recipe and her cornbread recipe up till the day she left earth? why would she give it to a two year old?) .My mom made the best biscuits on earth! and her cornbread could sop up Michigan lake and still be crunchy on the bottom! Now, I can make jiffy corn bread real good because I can add stuff to it! but I cant make biscuits or scratch cornbread at all! She got angry at me and stopped teaching me? I see her with my daughter and they laughing away?
My Daughter is very talented at baking, She makes all types of stuff I can't do.I wonder if that's from my mom or not? She also is great at knitting like my mom.She makes toys and such like my mother used too! I cant do any of those things but I loved visiting her and She would cook and knit her toys.I would buy my mom her favorite gospel group videos and we would sit and talk and watch them! She loved hearing men sing to her and she loved gospel she loved those vidieos as well as I.
Writting this brings back so, many memories of her.I still haven't gone to her gravesite since, her burial.It hurts so, much.To think how our family fell apart after that.
This write is an ode to my Mom.
I miss you and love you! R.I.P!

Submitted: Tuesday, June 10, 2014

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About MY MOM I was thinking about her all last month in may: (....

Comments about this poem (I love my African American Mom by Cheryl Butler )

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  • Timothy Caffery (6/10/2014 9:08:00 PM)

    Hmmm, the first line that really struck me born & bred in Georgia. I'm a massive James Baldwin follower, & he never failed to emphatically recite that element of Slavery that over shadows, yet is violently buried beneath, the work force. The core of what made Africans American, that Founding Fathers' greatest Great White Right. But I've also studied (not just read) , Blues People, by Le Roi Brown which radicalized me a pitch deeper than Baldwin's thoughts. Till I read this, I never saw The Blues in the food. As if Soul Food wasn't howling it loud enough. It was never what they gave you, or what you earned from them, it was what you do with what you have that shines thru the lies they need to sustain. Plato warned about the Blues & presribes a treatment in The Republic (Book 4) , but he never considered the significance of cooking. The threat it poses to The Republic's determination to break culture & shatter family bonds. The Blues is all but dead, suffocated by gospel & raped by Rock & Roll. Soul Food may be the last thing keeping Africans in America from becoming as American as the Scotish have been force to become English. Reverse assimilation and conquest is left exposed. I'm have Irish, our culture is drinking & potatoes, we are already gone (potatoes come from South America) . It'd be a sad life to see African defeated like the Irish. We are so devastated we started to think we're white & act it.
    Good luck, I hope this holds your people that much closer to the identity they risk being amputated from their hearts. It sounds like a beautiful altar that whistles as the winds of struggle blow through it. (Report) Reply

  • Colleen Courtney (6/10/2014 3:42:00 PM)

    I love this detailed story of your special times and wisdom learned through your beloved Mom. Although I admit to never having tried Collard Greens, I now know how to cook them! Lol. It's a beautiful thing that you are proud of your heritage and who you have turned out to be. It's also wonderful that you are making these wonderful memories with your own daughter. She will truly be as grateful to you as you are to your Mom. Enjoyed this write! (Report) Reply

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