Bonjour Kale: A Story of Greens and More (Plus a Recipe for a Kale Gimlet)
In early 2013 I held a one-way ticket to Paris in my hand. I was working on a film production for a few weeks and planned to stay a little bit longer to finish some writing projects that didn’t require me to be tied to a certain location. It’s always a writer’s dream to go to Paris, right? I had to fulfill the cliche (whether or not I believed it to be true).
I met Kristen Beddard soon thereafter, along with Emily Dilling and Jessie Kanelos Weiner, a group that we would later deem “ladies book club,” not because we sat around drinking wine and reading books, but because we all happened to be working on writing books the exact same year and we would get together over lunch to commiserate, procrastinate and look to each other for answers to questions that were most often unanswerable.
It was thanks to Kristen that several of my Parisian balcony pots had kale growing in them (until a pigeon roosted in them and they all had to get thrown out – a story for another day). Having arrived in Paris a couple of years earlier, Kristen had found that there was a common vegetable missing from the Parisian markets; kale.
She began to wonder why a vegetable that dated back thousands of years in Europe was so hard to find, and decided to do something about it: she launched The Kale Project. Working with farmers to bring back this legume oublié (forgotten vegetable), little by little kale started to pop up at the Parisian markets. This is the topic of Kristen’s new memoir Bonjour Kale A Memoir of Paris Love & Recipes, which came out earlier this summer. Her story is paired with recipes scattered throughout the book, like Kale Onion Soup (one of my favorites) and Kale and Chickpea Courgette Rolls (perfect for summer).
Now I know what you’re all thinking: isn’t kale outdated? Haven’t we moved on to other vegetables?
Kristen, like myself, is averse to food trends; we’ve had many conversations about the absurdity of putting one ingredient on a pedestal while forgetting many others. And while Bonjour Kale is a book about one particular leafy green, what I like about it is that it’s more about the networks and community that we build when we find ourselves in a new place. Food is often an easy way to do that, and for Kristen, kale became a way to meet new people, learn a language, and find a sense of place.
I read Bonjour Kale after I moved back from Paris. My time there is one that I will always remember – the bike rides, the friends, the natural wine – but it was never a city I entirely fell in love with. It is a city that we are quick to romanticize, quick to portray in its postcard version, but the reality of everyday Parisian life can many times be the opposite. Kristen does a beautiful job of pairing that postcard version with the reality of what it’s like to be in a new place, one that you’re not sure you love.
Kale might not be your favorite vegetable, but I’m certain that there’s a food that you love, a food that you grew up with, a food that gives you comfort. Food that if you didn’t have, you would crave it. Food that you would prepare for others to give them a taste of who you are and what you love; a way to share your culture and exchange with others.
That’s what food is after all; what we eat is often tied up in memories and emotions. Food can be a vehicle for exploration at the same time that it can be a way of grounding us. Bonjour Kale is a reminder of just that.
adapted from Bonjour Kale
I used to make a chocolate kale cake, really just because I wanted to see the look on someone’s face when I told them they had kale in it. Kale cocktails are kind of the same thing; there’s a ‘um, really?’ factor that comes with putting a leafy green in a stiff drink. You really could just consider it a boozy smoothie. Kristen offers the potential of agave syrup in hers to sweeten it, but I like the spicy kick of it without.
1/2 bunch kale, washed
1/2 to 1 inch fresh ginger, peeled
1 1/2 shots (70 milliliters) lime juice, freshly squeezed
1 shot (45 milliliters) tequila
1/2 shot (20 milliliters) triple sec
Handful cilantro leaves, washed and roughly chopped
Juice the kale and ginger in a juicer. Measure out 1 shot of the juice. Pour the kale-ginger juice, lime juice, tequila, triple sec, agave syrup and cilantro into a shaker with 6 ice cubes. Shake vigorously. Pour and enjoy!
*Note: I don’t own a juicer, but do have a blender. If you’re like me, do this: place the kale and ginger in a blender, with the lime juice. Puree until smooth. Strain the kale + ginger to remove the roughage. Use the leftover juice as you would in the rest of the recipe. You can also skip the straining part, it just leaves you with a pretty chunky cocktail!
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