The Louisiana singer/songwriter Tony Joe White acquainted America with the Southern cuisine polk salad on this track from his first album, which became a hit single in the summer of 1969. Polk salad is made from the leaves of the polkweed plant, but is not something you'll find in grocery stores since it's toxic - you have to boil it a few times before you can eat it. White explains in the song's folksy introduction that polk is "a plant that grows out in the woods and the fields, and it looks something like a turnip green." He then introduces Annie, a hardscrabble woman who made polk salad for her family, since that's all they could afford to eat.
White grew up in Oak Grove, Louisiana near the Mississippi River, and wrote what he called "swamp songs" about the folks from the area. "Annie, she could have been one of maybe three or four girls along that river there because all the girls were kinda tomboys," he said in our 2013 interview
. "They loved to fish, climb trees shoot rifles. That kind of stuff. So Annie could have been anybody. It's just like 'Old Man Willis,' 'Roosevelt and Ira Lee.' All those were real people that I grew up with."