Why a Farmer Stars in My Response to Fifty Shades of Grey with Recipe

Reader Contribution by Linda Watson
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My hero quotes Joel Salatin, listens to bluegrass music, and has cover crops, not riding crops. Every chapter ends with a seasonal recipe such as the Tender Collard Tangle below.

Why Would a Food Evangelist Write a Response to Fifty Shades of Grey?

When I learned that Fifty Shades had outsold the Harry Potter books, I had to check it out. Clearly the author knew how to get people’s attention. I found the first chapter online and was soon shocked by the idealization of heartless behavior. Billionaire Christian Grey intimidates his scuttling employees and agrees with pride when the heroine tells him, “You sound like the ultimate consumer.” This tycoon brags that if he were to sell his company, over twenty thousand people would soon be struggling to pay their mortgages.

The more I read, the more Christian Grey resembled the villains I’ve fought all my life. He isolates himself from the world using blindfolds, gliders, yachts, and private islands. Then he roughly takes what he wants, crushing lives and exhausting valuable resources. Would young women assume, given the blockbuster status of the books and movie, that Grey behaves in an admirable, manly way?

This thought so haunted me that I wrote Fifty Weeks of Green. I wanted to introduce the world to the folks I meet at the Mother Earth News Fairs and at sustainable agriculture conferences. For research, I joined the Edible Earthscapes community supported agriculture program (CSA) and interviewed my farming friends. To add flavor, I mixed in my favorite book by Wendell Berry, a warning about neonicotinoids, and a bluegrass song by Lorraine Jordan and Carolina Road.

All these ingredients went into Roger Branch, who loves to feel good soil and makes it better with sustainable farming practices. He delights in women who know their own minds, in his lively community, and in being part of the dance of nature. He’s no saint, with people skills that need cultivation, but that’s part of the story. Roger and the other characters help city gal Sophia Verde heal her cynicism and cope with an excess of greens.

My big fantasy is that some readers will try recipes from Fifty Weeks of Green, explore their local farmers markets, and cook a little more with the seasons. When I go wild, I dream of farmers’ markets, CSAs, co-ops, and health advocates using the book to nudge their clients in the direction of healthy food and thrifty cooking, sweetened with humor and romance.

Love doesn’t have to hurt and healthy food can be delicious.

Recipe: Tender Collard Tangle


Slice raw collard leaves thin and then massage and marinate the resulting tangle so it remains lively without being rebellious. Eat some as a salad and then steam the rest to bring out the sweetness and further relax the greens. It’s a key Cook for Good technique: cook once, enjoy several times! Yield: Makes 8 servings.

• 2 ounces collards (about 8 medium leaves)
• 2 tbsp lemon juice (juice from one lemon)
• 1 tsp olive oil
• 1/4 tsp salt
• 1/8 tsp freshly ground pepper
• 1 sweet apple, perhaps a Gala or Fuji
• 1/4 cup walnut pieces
• 1/4 cup raisins
• water for steaming

Cut or pull stems away from collard leaves and save stems for another use. Cut leaves into very thin strips. I stack them up, roll them up lengthwise like a cigar, and then slice across. Put collard leaves into a non-reactive container (glass, Pyrex, ceramic, or stainless steel). With clean and loving hands, gently squeeze and massage the collards five or six times until they relax a bit. Inhale their deep green fragrance and admire your wild collard tangle.

In a small bowl, mix lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Pour this dressing over collards and toss until well coated and glossy. If you have time, refrigerate tangle for two hours to soften the greens.

Core apple, slice, and cut into small pieces. Chop walnuts if needed. Toss fruit and nuts with collards, making sure to coat apple pieces well so they don’t brown. Serve chilled as Sweet and Tart Collard Tangle.

For Relaxed Collard Tangle, put a cup of water and a steamer basket in a large pot and bring water to a boil over high heat. Put collard mixture in the steamer, cover, and steam for about 5 minutes. If you’d rather use a microwave, put collard mixture and a teaspoon or two of water in a microwave-safe container. Microwave on high for about 45 seconds per serving. Serve hot. Keeps for five days refrigerated.

Images by Linda Watson (c) 2015 Cook for Good, used by permission.

Check out Linda’s website Cook for Good for more recipes and tips. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. She is the author of Wildly Affordable Organic: Eat Fabulous Food, Get Healthy, and Save the Planet–All on $5 a Day or Less and Fifty Weeks of Green: Romance & Recipes.

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