Huey Long’s Potlikker Recipe

huey long

In Louisiana history and folklore, Huey Pierce Long occupies a very special niche.  To be depressingly brief, he was born and reared in north-central Louisiana’s hardscrabble Winn Parish where, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, contrariness, populism and socialism were dominant.  Charismatic and unscrupulous but unquestionably brilliant, Huey secured a law degree and entered politics.  With a knack for selling himself to the embittered rural population of one of the South’s poorest states, he enjoyed rapid success and in 1928, at age 35, was elected governor on his second attempt.  Ignoring the state constitution, he established a remarkably well-oiled political machine that he used for the benefit of the “country folk” who were the backbone of his support and to intimidate the aristocratic elite who, correctly, viewed him as a threat to tradition.    In 1930, Huey was elected to the United States Senate but refused to take his seat until he had ensured that Louisiana state government was firmly in the hands of his chosen successors.  While in the Senate, he maintained an iron grip on events at home.

In 1931, as Huey stepped onto the national stage, Julian Harris, editor of the Atlanta Constitution questioned a comment by the up-and-coming Louisiana “Kingfish” that potlikker, that mainstay of the rural Southern diet, involved dunking one’s cornbread into the liquid left by boiling greens.  Harris insisted that no true Southerner would dunk and that cornbread must be crumbled into potlikker.  The controversy raged for nearly a month and established Huey as something of a potlikker expert, albeit one who “went against the grain” regarding traditional potlikker-eating beliefs.

After a flirtation with Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, Huey broke with Roosevelt in order to pursue his own ambitions for the presidency.  With never-ending hubris, Huey, the author of an ode to self-glorification and “share our wealth” socialism called Every Man a King wrote a second book with the optimistic title, My First Days in the White House. On June 12, 1935, he challenged a Roosevelt bill that would weaken the involvement of U.S. Senators in the appointment of individuals to leadership positions in the National Recovery Administration’s state offices.  Determined to prevent the bill from coming to a vote, Huey engaged in a fifteen-hour filibuster.  As part of his speech, and for the enjoyment and edification of the Senators present—and for the press—he entered into a description of a proper potlikker recipe:

Ingredients

Turnip Greens (or mustard greens)

Water

1 pound sliced side meat

First you get some turnip greens. You have to wash turnip greens many times…turnip greens contain more manganese than do mustard greens….you take the greens and the turnips and you put them in the pot. Remember this: Do not salt them. Do not put any salt, do not put any pepper, do not put any mustard, do not put any kind of seasoning in the pot with them….put in a sizable quantity of water….put in there a piece of salted side meat…you ought to put about a 1 pound hunk of side meat that is sliced, but not clear through, just down to the skin part….it will properly temper the turnip greens when it has been cooked through. That is all the seasoning that is needed. When you have cooked the greens until they are tender and the turnips until they are tender, you take up the turnips and the greens, and the soup that is left is potlikker. That brings on the real question of the art of eating potlikker….You draw off the potlikker and you eat it separately from the turnip greens. Congressional Record, June 12, 1935

On September 8, 1935, Huey Long was mortally wounded by an assassin in the Louisiana state capitol.  It is unknown as to whether or not the assassin was a connoisseur of potlikker.

MORE BY ROGER BUSBICE

About Roger Busbice

Roger Busbice is a resident of Morgan City, Louisiana. A magna cum laude graduate of Louisiana Tech in 1969, he holds a master's in Social Studies Education/History and has thirty hours above the master's. Busbice served as a teacher, principal, supervisor of instruction, and director of personnel for the St. Mary Parish public school system; and taught for Nicholls State University and for the Louisiana State University Lagniappe Program as an adjunct instructor of history. From 1992-1995, he was the archivist and historian for Louisiana's Old State Capitol. Later, as Director of Legal Services for Associated Professional Educators of Louisiana, a conservative teachers group he helped found, Busbice created the annual American Studies Conference in Baton Rouge to promote traditionalism in social studies. He has published numerous articles, essays, and book reviews. Now retired, Busbice currently serves as State Commander of the Louisiana Society of the Military Order of the Stars & Bars. More from Roger Busbice

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3 thoughts on “Huey Long’s Potlikker Recipe

  1. “No,” the Boss corrected, “I’m not a lawyer. I know some law. In fact, I know a lot of law. And I made me some money out of law. But I’m not a lawyer. That’s why I can see what the law is like. It’s like a single-bed blanket on a double bed and three folks in the bed and a cold night. There ain’t ever enough blanket to cover the case, no matter how much pulling and hauling, and somebody is always going to nigh catch pneumonia. Hell, the law is like the pants you bought last year for a growing boy, but it is always this year and the seams are popped and the shankbones to the breeze. The law is always too short and too tight for growing humankind. The best you can do is do something and then make up some law to fit and by the time that law gets on the books you would have done something different. Do you think half the things I’ve done were clear, distinct, and simple in the constitution of this state?”
    “The Supreme Court has ruled–” Hugh Miller began.
    “Yeah, and they ruled because I put ’em there to rule it, and they saw what had to be done. Half the things weren’t in the constitution but they are now, by God. And how did they get there? Simply because somebody did ’em.”
    ~From Robert Penn Warren’s “All the King’s Men”

  2. As a resident and a dual major of History and Political Science at Louisiana Tech, I’m happy to see a write up full of good humor and accuracy on the “Kingfish”. It’s amazing that people in the state still look up to Huey Long as some “misrepresented” messiah. Enjoyed reading and keep up the great work!

  3. My dear Aunt Lucy said, “Why, country folk in Louisiana did not know they had a governor until Huey Long was elected.”

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