I used to embody one kind of cliché: a kid, later a young adult, who didn’t like vegetables. In retrospect, this is perhaps not surprising given that the majority of my veg came from a can and/or was boiled into the world after the next world. No flavour, no substance; only pain, fear, and disgust. Definitely no fibre left.
But things began to change quite precipitously when, at the ripe old age of 28, I decided to go vegan. I suppose it’s possible to do it without (although I’m not sure how healthy that would look), but being vegan pretty much means “vegetables”. So, I started trying new things; lo, to my infinite and joyous surprise, I discovered I liked all kinds of things previously dismissed in the manner of haughty 5-year-olds the world over, such as: chickpeas, spinach, zucchini, green onions, and cucumber. I was starting from less than zero when it came to either food experience or food open-mindedness.
It took me some time to get to kale, in part because everything was so unfamiliar. I got a very basic cookbook, The Garden of Vegan, and had to look up everything on the Google both for explanations and identifying photographs, so I wouldn’t spend hours wandering hopelessly in the grocery store.
Kale came into my life after I’d achieved a measure of confidence in the kitchen and in the market. I believe my first kale dish was kale with mustard-tahini sauce. This simple side involved steam-boiling the kale and then dousing it in the sauce. The sauce is pretty damned fine, so that wasn’t a bad thing; but I wasn’t really tasting kale (although it made me feel like the crazy-strong love child of Popeye and Superman, so I kept eating it).
I also discovered the joys of kale in pesto (absolutely brilliant when paired with tonnes of garlic) and wilted in soups. But the game-changer was one recipe handed down to me by my lady liege of kale, Lisa P. The trick with kale salad is to leave it raw and just massage it with a little oil or avocado and apple cider vinegar or lemon juice; it totally changes the consistency, but not in a way that reminds me of my vegetable-disrespecting beginnings on the east coast (proud home of boiled dinner). I could eat this every day, I really could. And it’s such a ridiculously easy way to get fresh greens into the culinary routine:
Lisa’s Super-Awesome Kale Salad of Awesomeness
One large bunch of kale, any variety or a mix
1-3 tsp extra virgin olive oil
2-3 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dried ground coriander
1/2 tsp dried ground cumin
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
3 tbsp hemp seeds
Chop kale into bite-sized pieces, discarding the stems. Add olive oil and apple cider vinegar and then massage in with your hands until the kale’s consistency softens, about 2 – 3 minutes.
Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine with a large spoon. Eat up!
Kale is my most beloved of vegetables. I love all kinds, but faced with the choice between it and any number of other greens, I always choose kale. At the same time, it makes me want to eat more greens of every sort the way reading a really amazing book (i.e., Middlemarch) makes me desperate to buy more books (which I did the other day, breaking (again) my promise not to purchase more in 2012). Good food, for either the belly or the brain, begets a desire for more of that good food.
I’m now a different kind of cliché: a vegan who loves greens. And while I hate PETA and will never be caught dead in a lettuce bikini or wearing Birkenstocks, I’m happy to rock this particular stereotype. Kale and I are a match made in hippy health food heaven.