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Food for the soul – Neck Bones

September 2, 2010 by  
Filed under Feature, Food

By Griffin Day

When it came to food for our African- American ancestors in the Deep South, they often had to make the best of what they were given or could afford. From these foods, which others considered “leavings,” came a variety of dishes — among them were chitterlings, pig feet, pig ears, pig tails, ham hocks and neck FOOD FOR THE SOUL bones. Added to these meats were several familiar vegetables, such as collard greens, turnip greens, okra and whatever else could be put together to complete a meal. From these dietary habits came what is popularly known as soul food.

Over the centuries, these flavorful dishes have evolved into a fashionable cuisine enjoyed by people of all races and social classes. Our people had it hard, but they did what they had to do to make it. Today, we can lean on these traditions to make simple foods that are both delicious and inexpensive. From this litany of foods, neck bones, at a cost of about 98 cents per pound, are one of the less expensive meats that can make several meals.

Prepared correctly, this versatile meat can be a meal unto itself, a side dish or used as a seasoning to spice up greens, beans, peas and other vegetables. To prepare neck bones as a standalone dish (feeding about eight people), the cook can start with three pounds of neck bones, two cups of celery, two cups of onions, one cup of green peppers and one cup of yellow peppers. Wash the neck bones, place them bone side up on a dry surface (wax paper or aluminum foil are best) and season with salt, pepper, garlic salt and any other desired spices. Turn over and season the meat side in the same fashion. The cook should then allow the meat to rest in the seasoning for the few minutes it takes to prepare a pot for cooking. In a pot large enough to hold all the meat, add the food in layers — a layer of veggies followed by layer of meat, then another layer of veggies and so forth. Now that the pot is complete, add water — only enough to come just under the top of the meat. As the meat cooks, it will lose some of its volume. Bring to a boil for about three minutes, then reduce heat to low. Let simmer until thoroughly cooked. The meat should be tender enough to fall off the bone. To make a complete meal, traditional cooks in Alabama, Georgia and Arkansas simply add a can of tomatoes and spaghetti. In South Carolina and Louisiana, rice is a common accompaniment. Potatoes are also commonly served with neck bones.

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