Why entitle a collection of short stories poke salat? They are similar in a lot of ways. Salat is the German word of salad and probably came to the Ozarks with the German settlers.
If you are from the South, I’m sure that you know what poke salad is. I have been told that poke grows wild from Maine to Florida and Minnesota to Texas. It is a weed that is officially considered to be poisonous, containing at least three different types of poisons; however the Indians have used it for centuries. They used the dark purple berries as a dye. The Indians boiled the tender young leaves for use as a spring tonic, and various other internal and external medicinal applications. They introduced poke to the colonist, who took it to Europe as a potherb where it became very popular.
Short stories can trace their history back several centuries also. Aesop fables go back to the ancient Greeks.
Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales are from the fourteenth century. These tales lead to the development of the evocative descriptions and short tales of Washington as he produced the first examples of the short story in the United States.
Poke can be eaten and enjoyed by itself, much as one short story can be read and enjoyed by itself. The salad is improved with the addition of a few other weeds. The weeds of choice are usually one or both of the varieties of dock and lamb’s quarter. The curly dock has a blue-green to dark-green lance-shaped leaf, with a smooth edge that is wavy or crimped. It is considered to be the best tasting of the two. There are several types of short stories as well, some taste better than others. Some are smooth and go down easy, while others are a little wavy and a little harder to swallow. The slick dock has a reddish veined heart-shaped leaf that is slightly wavy. It has a strong bitter taste. As some short stories are about subjects we don’t like to think about, much less see in print. Lamb’s quarter leaves are roughly diamond shaped and somewhat toothed toward the point. They are clammy feeling, unwettable and have a whitish coating on the underside. Lamb’s quarter is mild to the taste and never bitter. Some short stories are diamonds in the rough from their conception, and can be read over and over without getting old.
When you mix these weeds together and boil them with a little salt and bacon grease, you have a fine bowl of vitamins and minerals, which might cure a lot of aliments. When you mix a group of short stories together you have a fine bowl of humor and pathos, which also has a variety of benefits, and medicinal applications. Either one or both can be enjoyed at your leisure.
By Kay McFarland