Tuesday, March 03, 2009

On wanting to like kale, but not succeeding

It can seem as though every new article is a humorless guide to how to waste the least money, consume the fewest calories, and have the smallest possible impact on the environment, while somehow both being able to and wanting to live forever. "Personal Health" columnist Jane Brody at least deserves credit for being ahead of the curve, but I'm having trouble figuring out who the target audience is for her latest column, a Did You Know? introduction to saving money on groceries. Pasta is cheap? Canned tomatoes? Onions? Frozen, store-brand fruit? Milk? Bananas? Ground beef? Kale? Add to this list tiny amounts of overly fancy cheese, subtract the kale, and that would be my groceries. (Kale, why, why? It is the favorite vegetable of the humorless age - cheap, good-for-you, and the only local-seasonal vegetable available fresh during a long Northeastern winter. How could anyone not like kale? Bring it! As an idiom. Please do not bring me kale.)

So, back to the question of target audience. Brody begins by telling readers, "I’m not going to suggest a nightly diet of stone soup or the cheap fat- and sugar-rich menus of the urban poor." Something about the phrasing suggests she is using "urban poor" to mean those who in Hyde Park were referred to as "community members," not downsized hedge-fund managers and accompanying girlfriends, not sporadically-paid freelance writers, and certainly not 29-year-old ex-humanities majors still referring to themselves as 'recent college grads'. She's writing for the city-dwelling and budgetarily challenged, the "urban poor" being another set altogether, and not the set addressed in the piece.

Actually, Brody's pretty explicit about her presumed readership: "But many people who once gave little thought to dining on steak, lobster, asparagus, baby spinach or crème brûlée are now having to spend less on just about everything, including food." Baby spinach aside, this diet-of-the-rich sounds more like something out of a nineteenth century novel than like the eating habits of the wealthy in 2006. I'm picturing a jovial, large-bellied industrialist knocking back bottle after bottle of wine from 1810, along with oysters, followed by courses galore from the age before fancy food meant tiny portions on all-but-bare plates. How wonderful. Bring it! (Literally.)

In any case, Brody is writing for those select few who will be surprised to learn that cabbage and peanut butter are inexpensive foodstuffs, which is to say, people for whom, had it not been for Madoff, money would never have been an object. This much is clear. But will the newly-not-as-rich choose groceries as the place to scrimp and save? Should they, even? Wouldn't life be far more enjoyable without highlights and manicures than swimming in a virtuous bowl of kale-and-bean soup, held together by a homemade chicken broth (because what kind of a person are you if your broth comes from a can)?

All of this is a roundabout way of justifying the fact that I made myself $10 worth of lamb chops for dinner, with some asparagus on the side. And it was delicious.


Anonymous said...

I am generally with you on this, except I personally don't like oysters and think kale is swell. There is a wonderful leek-and-kale soup, with some cut up sausages. When I cook kale to serve as a vegetable, I cook it for a very long time, after pulling the leaves off the (woody, and I discard them) stems, braise with water and either olive oil or butter, and put in some anchovy paste. The same dish is better, I think, with Swiss chard, but when kale is all there is, I'm happy to eat it. dave.s.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...

Not another kale recipe! I've seen variants of this one everywhere. And I remain unconvinced.

Anonymous said...

Science says: eat your kale. dave.s.


Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...

No, science says, eat your vegetables. Kale's not the only way to go.