Chef Christeen Griffiths, Campus Dining. Photo by Barron Bixler from his ongoing documentary project about The Seed Farm at Princeton
Collards Cooking Class in Butler College
Alison Hersch, Class of 2023 • October 14, 2022
The Princeton Food Project (PFP) collaborated with the Effron Center for the Study of America and the Department of Sociology to host the class in conjunction with the visit of a guest speaker, Joseph C. Ewoodzie Jr., associate professor of sociology and the Vann Professor of Racial Justice at Davidson College. The day before, Ewoodzie gave a talk on his new book, Getting Something to Eat in Jackson: Race, Class, and Food in the American South, about his year-long experience following socioeconomically diverse Black Jacksonians in Mississippi. His lecture confronted how and why soul food is changing from the staple it once was.
At lunchtime on October 12, 2022, Butler College dining room filled with the aroma of simmering, seasoned heirloom collard greens. Overseeing the stoves were fifteen members of the Princeton community, including faculty, staff, undergraduates, and graduate students — all in Campus Dining caps and aprons — with varying culinary expertise.
The collards were grown at Princeton’s Seed Farm as part of a national effort through The Heirloom Collards Project to highlight collards’ rich history, diversity, and beauty. Several class participants were student volunteers at the Seed Farm who helped plant, grow, and harvest the collards, while for others the class was their first time working with collards. Chef Christeen Griffiths led the class in slicing, cleaning, boiling, and seasoning the collards; chef Jared Gierisch and the entire Butler College dining staff assisted in making the event a success.
This enriching experience ended in a fabulous Southern-style lunch prepared by Griffiths and the Campus Dining team. Attendees left with new skills and full stomachs, satisfied from conversation, camaraderie, and cuisine. That evening, the collards cooked in the lunchtime class were served for dinner at Butler College — seeds saved by the Heirloom Collards Project, collards grown at the Princeton Seed Farm, cooked on campus, and eaten by Princetonians.
PFP extends a special thanks to the Ujamaa Cooperative Farming Alliance, and Dining Services’ Nadeem Siddiqui, Bernadette Penick, and Donna Pilenza. Event organizer and PFP steering committee member Tessa Lowinske Desmond, associate research scholar in the Effron Center for the Study of America, looks forward to future collaborations.