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February 9th 2009

 

 

    I remember once in Tennessee, while talking about vegetables, a tall grey haired woman from Wisconsin, looked down her long nose at me and said: "What does a Southerner know about chard!"  

 

    I had no response.

 

    It could not have been my accent that suggested a Southern heritage.  I speak reasonably quickly in the back of my mouth, as the English tend to.  But ever since that day I have associated chard with this strange accusation.  And ever since, I have wondered how I might have replied to it.

 

    Certainly there is an association between the Swiss people and Chard, which suggests ice and snow and cows, and I might have mollified the woman from Wisconsin by saying: "Of course it doesn't taste as well when grown down here."

         

    This I think would have cornered her idea of chard, presented her with an opportunity for sympathy.  Sadly though, I also recall my mood, which had been defensive, in that aggressive way.  So, such a diplomatic approach would have been improbable.

 

    In moments of frustration, I have considered: "You know Chard was first grown in the Americas by settlers in Louisiana.  They called it French Spinach."  But this tall woman from Wisconsin had recently become a widow and that would have been too brutal of me.

 

    Today I decided that I should have just said: "Down here, we call Mangold, Chard."  This I think might have challenged her idea of chard, and it might have satisfied my competitive spirit.

 

    "What does a Southerner know about chard!" has over the years become something of an obsession, especially virulent when the temperature is 70F in February.  Tomorrow and the day after look to be warm as well.   

 

 

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Tim Candler