A Kale Tale!?!

I’ve had a good laugh over the recent kale craze. The curly-edged grayish-green leaves have long been used almost exclusively as decoration, ever since salad bars became all the rage a few decades back.  While I can’t pinpoint on a calendar, kale jumped off the edge of the salad bar to become Southern California’s eat-healthy, live-forever food du jour. The star! Kale on TV, cooking shows, front page of the newspaper Food section, written into endless recipes. Kale, in the spotlight, front and center. Take a bow!

Just yesterday, I stopped at the king of grocery stores, Whole Foods at The District in Tustin. The store is ginormous, designed to look and feel like one of the nearby remaining aircraft hangars on the former Marine Corps Air Station base. While selection is mind-boggling, I was surprised to find seven, count ’em, seven different variations of kale salad in the deli and salad bar, along with four different varieties of fresh kale in the produce section.

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My relationship with kale goes back to my years living in the Bremen area of Northern Germany, some years ago.  Kale (Grünkohl – green cabbage), isn’t just a vegetable to the folks living in that fabulous little corner of the world, it’s an EVENT! From Grünkohlessen to Kohl und Pinkelfahrten to a hearty Kohlfahrt, people look forward to the cold months, to just after the first frost, when the best kale is harvested and cooked. Kale served with a sausage called Pinkel is a specialty, which some adore while others abhor. Bus tours take people to inns where they drink and eat, and a kale king and queen are crowned. Villagers go on robust walks to local taverns specializing in kale, drinking heartily along the way. Please take note, the drinking heartily part is of critical importance! To some, the only way they’ll suffer down the Pinkel is by fortifying themselves to the max prior to eating. For others, it’s part of the annual ritual. Regardless the reason, you might have gathered by now, our little curly food du jour kale is by now hiding in the corner, too embarrassed to be in the same room with Grünkohl!

When I moved back to Southern California from Germany, and saw the curly leafy bunches at my local Alpha Beta Grocery Store, my mouth started watering. A few friends and I literally bought out the entire stock of kale, causing multitudes of comments from the produce clerks as they hauled boxes from the back, and the checkout clerks as they rang it up. We laughed and said it was for our rabbits! Little did the store clerks know how much kale we had to purchase to allow for it cooking down to nothingness, the way spinach does. Oh, the labor of love was intense. We used the bathtub to wash it all, carefully getting all the grit out of the crevices. Then on to tearing off all the leaves, peeling the strings off, cutting off the hard parts. Our backs ached I can tell you, but, it’s the type of dish that one cooks LOTS of at a time.

Once the kale is clean, it’s cooked in a huge pot with water, and a great variety of smoked pork meats and sausages, seasonings, onions. Some meats are placed in at the beginning and allowed to cook until they’ve fallen apart, others are added later to retain their shape. The longer kale cooks, the better the taste. The taverns in Germany are highly competitive in their dishes. Secret recipes handed down from one generation to the next are most likely kept under lock and key. This was oftentimes our Christmas dinner feast. Served with the delicious potatoes Germany is also known for (yukon gold most resemble the creamy, rich consistency), we stuffed ourselves till we couldn’t move.

I hope you enjoyed my kale journey and perhaps you too will smile a bit the next time you hear kale being mentioned as the food du jour! ~SueBee

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Categories: Foodie, Musings, Photography

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One Comment on “A Kale Tale!?!”

  1. Aug 18, 2014 at 11:03 pm #

    Everything is very open with a really clear clarification of the issues.
    It was really informative. Your site is useful. Thanks for sharing!

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