I tend to come late to food fads. I have not been inclined to do “organic.” I’ve yet to try Thai food. I find little that is tasty in mesclun greens.
In fact, I was more than a little put out when iceberg lettuce disappeared from restaurant menus to be summarily replaced by the so-called “spring mix.” It happened so quickly, didn’t it? One day we were happily munching on brisk, crunchy leaves of iceberg topped with zesty, creamy Thousand Islands dressing with a radish slice thrown in. And then what? Somebody in California put a plate of bitter, chewy, herbaceous, mesclun greens drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette in front of an impressionable herbivore diner who declared it, “Yummy! Healthy!” and suddenly every eatery in America adopted this vile mixture as if iceberg never existed. For years, I’ve avoided ordering salad, or I order a Caesar salad instead – another trendy menu item – probably there to placate those of us who eschew the bitter mesclun mix, the one food that not even the presence of bacon can improve. I see that “The Wedge Salad” is giving iceberg lettuce a second kick at the can in some dining establishments. I’m happy with this re-packaging even though it usually means a higher mark-up.
Goat cheese is another trend that I rail against. I know some people love it, but not me. We recently dined at a restaurant where three out of the six entrees included it.That meant that half of the menu held no appeal for me whatsoever. When did goat cheese become such a staple? Again, I suspect it started in California where a thriving portion of food production is “artisanal.”
That’s another craze: artisanal everything. Artisanal cheese. Artisanal bread. Artisanal olives. I think even the word “artisanal” is trendy enough to rate its own fad.
Whole wheat pasta is popular with the low-carb diet crowd. I refuse to convert, though. That snappy, gritty texture is just wrong in a noodle.
The “gluten-free” movement has followers even among people who don’t have celiac disease. Labels declaring “gluten-free” are showing up on all sorts of foods these days. News flash: apples have always been free of gluten.
Yogurt business is brisk these days especially if it claims to be Greek. Green tea isn’t just for Chinese food anymore. Food producers seem quick to jump on a bandwagon if it will sell more products. But, I believe these food trends gain momentum in part due to their inherent health benefits.
So, when Ken came home from a visit to New York last week, and told me that restaurants all over the city had kale on the menu, I wasn't that enthusiastic to follow suit. Fashionable diners everywhere might be scarfing extravagant platefuls of the stuff, but what, I wondered is the appeal? This prompted me to do a little research.
Kale is, by all accounts, a super veg. One cup of kale provides a powerhouse of fiber, calcium, potassium, magnesium, anti-oxidants, beta-carotene, vitamins A, B6, C and K, and even some carotenoids, whatever they are! Kale can help prevent heart disease, cancer, dementia, osteoporosis and cataracts. Wow!
Online recipe sites abound with kale koncoctions (sorry – had to do the aliteration.) Pasta with kale. Lentils with kale. Kale sautéed with shallots and balsamic vinegar. Roasted kale. Dried kale chips. Kale burgers.
At first, I wasn't going to try it. I was determined to exercise my usual resistance to anything new. But I thought, “Oh, what the heck!” and sautéed some with garlic and lemon juice for dinner on Wednesday. I am now a Kale Konvert!
In fact, I have become such a fan that I propose kale make its way into all kinds of products. Think of the double whammy health benefits we’d get from these new ideas:
Kale Toothpaste – with such a high calcium content, brushing it directly onto your teeth could totally make up for all those years when you didn’t drink your milk - and get you a good report at the dentist.
Kale Body Lotion – beta-carotene and vitamin C are really good for the skin and that cabbage-y fragrance has a nice autumnal tang to it.
Kale Green Tea – well, it would be, wouldn’t it? Green, that is.
Kale Yogurt – pretty close to perfection in the fiber/pro-biotic interaction. Make sure you renew some magazine subscriptions for the loo.
Kale Room Deodorizer – everyone who walks into your house will know you mean business about healthy eating!
And finally, Kale Kapsules – concentrated and stuffed into an easy-to-swallow supplement, so that you actually won’t ever have to eat kale at all!
Dedicated to my dear friend, Bernie who gave me the idea for this blog. Way ahead of the curve, Bernie has been growing kale in her garden for at least 15 years. Although her crops are organic, she insists her kale is not artisanal.