A brief history of Potlikker, CL's new food & drinks page



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You might be asking yourself: "What in tarnation is a potlikker?"

Potlikker (yes, that's the official spelling) is the hearty broth of deliciously stewed goodness left at the bottom of a pot of greens. It's also the name of our new food page.

Potlikker's spelling was officiated in 1982 when then Georgia Lt. Governor Zell Miller wrote into the New York Times, correcting a recent printed reference.

"I always thought The New York Times knew everything, but obviously your editor knows as little about spelling as he or she does about Appalachian cooking and soul food. Only a culinary-illiterate damnyankee (one word) who can't tell the difference between beans and greens would call the liquid left in the pot after cooking greens 'pot liquor' (two words) instead of 'potlikker' (one word) as yours did. And don't cite Webster as a defense because he didn't know any better either."

Hot damn, Mr. Miller. The Times corrected its spelling and now even the Southern Foodways Alliance has dubbed it the official spelling. For lack of a better word, it's bona fide. Spelling aside, I decided on this particular name because it symbolizes my personal mission as the food editor at CL.

"Potlikker is more than the sum of the juices at the bottom of a pot of greens," Southern Foodways Alliance director John T. Edge wrote of potlikker. "It may be one of the more plebeian of Southern culinary creations, but never let it be said that potlikker is without import. Enshrined early in the pantheon of Southern folk belief, potlikker was prescribed by doctors and conjurers alike for ailments as varied as the croup and colic, rabies and fatigue. Though claims of its curative qualities may be farfetched, potlikker is indeed packed with nutrients, for, during the cooking process, vitamins and minerals leech out of the greens, leaving the collards, turnips, or mustards comparatively bereft of nutrients while the vitamins A, B, and C as well as potassium suffuse the potlikker."

See, all the good stuff is in the potlikker. And I hope this feed of food-relevant information will also provide nutrients, vitamins, and perhaps a little insight. Some like to think of our Bay area home as a homogenous chain-store mecca, devoid of personality and character, but finding the strange, obsessed, and compelling is a challenge I've happily accepted. I hope you will, too …

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