Kalemageddon

ImageKale chips have just completely altered my world view. Well, it’s not entirely that simple, and it’s 12:30am so I should really be going to bed, but I just have to express all these thoughts before I lose them to the black hole of memory that is interrupted sleep with a baby.

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I made kale chips tonight after hearing people rave about them for a long time. I have looked up several recipes for them, thought about making them, but maybe I just didn’t believe that they would be as good as everyone said they were. This story does not begin here, I have a long term relationship with kale. My story with kale parallels my food journey in general so I think it is worth telling. The first time I ever heard of kale was when I started dating “Raw Food Guy.” I was eighteen, he was twenty eight. I was looking for answers in a confusing, adventurous time of life. He was looking to convince everyone to be a raw-foodist. So, naturally, I became a devout raw-food enthusiast. Like most eighteen year old girls I had always wanted to be thin and now I had found the secret. I quickly replaced my carb-addicted vegetarian lifestyle with a nutrient rich, unique, and trendy “rawesome” diet. I was supposedly on a health kick, but really I was on a diet kick, and I enjoyed every minute of looking great, working, and hanging out in New York. Kale was my new best friend. I would actually buy a bunch of the cruciferous veggie at the bodega on the corner of Bleecker St., walk into my waitressing job, and make myself a plate of kale dressed with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. I ate that whole plate because God knows I was hungry, but every bite was a challenge. It was bitter and horrible. I only choked it down because I felt some kind of virtue eating this dry, terrible green and thinking it was providing me with health and good looks. There I was, lecturing bored friends about enzymes, eating too many almonds and raw honey and wishing they were cake. It turns out that no matter what we eat, our food issues don’t magically go away. Even later when I met my now husband, I was on a renewed health high, doing the Master Cleanse and serving him nothing but kale and brown rice every time he came over for dinner. Poor Mo actually ate this terrible, tough, sautéed kale. He admitted that in his years working catering he had only seen it used as a garnish and had never bothered to taste kale. I was astounded, how could he have spent so many years unaware of the delicious benefits of this vegetable!? Bless him, he never said out loud that he wished he had never had to find out what it tasted like! The tamari I cooked it with was certainly not enough to enliven it. 

I have had the opportunity to realize that my underlying issues follow me in different garments through the years until I finally wake up and face them. I have been confronted with my food confusion many times over, but I don’t think it has ever quite sunk in until tonight, when I ate a piece of kale, and it tasted like a potato chip, only crispier and more deliciously delicate. I was standing in the kitchen, incredulous, telling myself not to eat all the kale chips because I should save some for my four year old. I had found the holy grail of kid food, the magical way to get my son to eat dark leafy greens. As I was celebrating I realized something else, a little more sinister, a little pop-psychology in an “Eat, Pray, Love” sort of way. I couldn’t reconcile the junk food taste of the kale. I needed to feel guilty about eating this crispy, oily, salty food. But I needed to feel virtuous because I was eating the almighty kale. I couldn’t feel both at the same time. That dichotomy has never been so real for me. In just a few minutes it became clear that however healthy and positive I think my relationship with food is, the cold truth is that I feel guilty when I eat something delicious and happy in a masochistic way when I eat something I think is healthy but doesn’t taste so great. Avocados are probably the sole exception to this. I have managed to find fault with every food I really enjoy, some for good reason, but mostly because I think that if I change what I eat, I’ll change how I feel about what I eat. I think I feel guilty and unsure, most of the time.

Somehow kale chips have put all of my food issues in perspective, and for that I am grateful. There is always a point of waking up, of beginning, of seeing the truth and hoping to soon enough look back as we do after crossing a bridge. Here’s to the other side.

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