When I was growing up in Pasadena, California, my mother cooked collard greens once a month or so. The dish was a departure from our mainstream American diet, which consisted largely of the convenience foods that so many people ate in the 1970s: Tater Tots, frozen vegetables, and Chung King—brand Chinese food. But collards were a family recipe. My grandparents had left Louisiana in the 1930s to escape segregation and Jim Crow, and while they didn't talk much about life the South, we did hear a lot about the food. My Nana told me that back when she was a little girl in Minden, Louisiana, a small town outside of Shreveport, her aunt Athelene had a big farm. They would go out and pick vegetables from the field for their dinner, including what Nana called "tree collards." "Most people, you would go to their house and you'd see these big stalks of greens," she told me recently. "The stalk would be about six feet tall."