Greens not greedPosted: December 7, 2011
Nothing makes me lose my appetite like a big food company that stomps on the little guy, especially when that little guy is holding one of my favourite vegetables: kale.
American fast-food chain Chick-fil-A has a catchy advertising campaign featuring cows holding up a sign reading ‘Eat mor chikin’, and they’re suing a small Vermont t-shirt printer because he makes t-shirts and stickers that say ‘Eat More Kale’.
This Vermonter, Bo Muller-Moore, first designed the t-shirts at the request of two local farmers who were growing and selling kale. Apparently, Chik-fil-A’s lawyers are afraid that we, the eating public, will get confused and mistake the advice to eat kale for the message about eating more overly processed chicken sandwiches (see: Eat More Kale. Just Don’t Confuse It With Chikin. | Common Dreams).
‘What the cluck’?
I remember Chick-fil-A from when I worked at the Woodville Mall in Northwood, Ohio. After a long day flogging jeans at the County Seat, or panty hose at Parklane Hosiery, I would enjoy a Chick-fil-A chicken sandwich and waffle fries with lots of ketchup. In fact, Chick-fil-A’s success seems to be in part its drive to populate shopping malls from sea to shining sea with its shops. Mmmm … shopping mall food … a guilty pleasure.
I’m all for occasional guilty pleasures, but when Chick-fil-A starts messing with a vegetable as beloved to me as kale, I draw the line. It seems I’m not the first person to slam Chick-fil-A for some of its practices: Organic Authority and Eat Me Daily beat me to it. In fact, my literary stylings are no match for some of the clever headlines about this issue from other sources, for example: What the Cluck, Chick-fil-A? (from a People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) press release) and Chick-fil-A Sues Hippie Because They Are Insufferable Assholes (from Gawker).
In my view, Chick-fil-A is doing a disservice to kale (not to mention small farmers and locally owned businesses). By selling heart-disease-friendly foods using the captivatingly misspelled refrain ‘Eat mor chikin’, they may also be damaging the hearts and spelling skills of today’s youth. And their representation of cows as advocates for eating chicken suggests something disturbing about the consciousness of farm animals, and begs the question: if chickens could advocate, who would they tell you to eat?
Leafy greens, southern lawmakers and the NBA
While I consider myself something of a kale enthusiast, I didn’t even know what kale was until I was in my 20s. In my Yankee family, ‘greens’ were lettuce. When I moved to Cincinnati, just north of the Mason-Dixon line, I discovered that collard and mustard greens, as well as kale, are part of the culinary heritage of the south (so much so that, just a few months ago, South Carolina voted to make collard greens the official State leafy green … not the best example of critical policymaking, but a great boost for the humble green). I even met a former professional basketball player from the Deep South who moved north and lamented the absence of collard greens. When he retired, he bought a farm in Wisconsin to grow nothing but collard greens.
I was enchanted by the nutritional value of greens and the multitude of ways they can be prepared. My then-boyfriend and I planted Seeds of Change Red Russian Kale, an heirloom variety, in our community garden (aka allotment) in Cincinnati. The seeds started producing small leaves in the early spring (which can be eaten raw in salads), and kept producing big, hardy crimson-veined leaves until they were covered in snow in December. We planted a 3 foot by 6 foot bed with the seeds, which was way too much. So we became skilled at finding ways to cook kale.
Kale burgers. Kale burritos. Kale and pasta. Stir-fried kale. Crispy kale side-dish. White bean and kale soup. I could go on, but won’t. Instead, I’ll share with you my favourite kale recipe, which is an adaptation of the Sunday’s at Moosewood ‘Ziti with Chard’. I call it …
… ‘Whatever-Kind-of-Pasta-You-Have with Kale’
First, prepare your kale. My favourite is the curly-leaf variety, rather than the black russian kale, but it’s all good. One thing I love about the curly leaf kind – compared to many other types of greens – is how easy it is to remove the stalks. Just grab the stalk at its base with one hand, and run the index finger and thumb of your other hand up along the stalk to shear off all the leaves. Rinse your kale, but leave some of the water on the leaves to help it steam while cooking. Chop it coarsely.
Next, cook your pasta.
Meanwhile, in a skillet heat two or three tablespoons of olive oil, and throw in several chopped cloves of garlic and a dried chilli. You can let the garlic get a bit brown if you like, then throw in the chopped kale. Put a lid on the skillet and cook for about 5-7 minutes, until the kale is bright green and just getting a bit wilted. I don’t like to overcook my kale, so 10 minute would probably be too much. Season with salt and lots of black pepper.
When the pasta and kale are done, spoon pasta onto your plate, top with the kale and garlic sauté, drizzle with more olive oil, top with chopped fresh tomatoes (**see disclaimer), squeeze on some lemon juice, and grate on some hard cheese (e.g., Parmesan).
**Disclaimer: this recipe contains fresh tomatoes, and if you live in the northern hemisphere, I don’t recommend (in fact, I object to) buying tomatoes at this time of year. Those pale red things they sell in the supermarket, the ones they call tomatoes, well, that’s not what this recipe requires. So do me a favour and try this without the tomatoes, or wait to make it until next summer. Better yet, try this recipe from the BBC, which is pretty similar but without tomatoes.
Here’s another recipe to try: Pumpkin, kale and chicken curry.