Monday, May 2, 2016

Eat your greens!

When I was a wee bairn* in East Texas, one of the foods that we had on occasion and that I hated almost every time, was something called greens. They might be mustard greens or turnip greens (the leafy parts of mustard or turnip) or collard greens (the leafy parts of ... well, the whole thing, I suppose.) That is a picture of prepared collard greens, but IMHO, it could have been any of them. There was a difference in taste, but not enough to make any of them desirable at the time.My foggy recollection is that we had this toward the end of the month before the paychecks had come through and when the food budget was tight.

I can't recall the last time I ate any of those things. Probably in the cafeteria at university, where every year the Black Student Alliance treated us to a soul food dinner. Soul food, it turned out, consisted of pretty much what we ate in East Texas a lot of the time anyway. It was an oddity to lots of folks in the Midwest, who thought that things like black-eyed peas were for cattle.

At any rate, this morning as I ate my allegedly shockingly healthy breakfast sandwich of egg white, kale, roasted tomato and goat cheese on flatbread, something niggled in my brain and asked, "Is kale just fancy collard greens?"

Turns out they are related. (They are also all related to broccoli and cabbage.) I won't say that this discovery turned the kale to ashes in my mouth, but it does just go to show. What was once a semi-staple for the poor has become a darling of the fitness foodies. Our local market carries fresh kale in huge batches. We are encouraged to toss it into any and everything to add something or other. Not, I think, deliciosity, but things like anti-oxidants, vitamins A/K/C, fiber and something ominously called isothiocyanates. It has a lot of sulfur, too, which cannot be good. They even have kale chips -- barbecue-flavored and cool ranch and nacho. Baked or air-dried. Imagine someone over-processing and over-seasoning collard greens for the masses like this. My mind boggles.

I don't mind fresh spinach in my food, but I am going to be very suspicious of any greens in the future. Some of it may even turn out to be poke salad. AKA poke salat, poke sallet, etc. Look it up. It can be deadly if not properly prepared. There are those who say it is deadly under any circumstances. If it is anything like the collard greens of my vanished youth, I believe it.

*I was never a wee bairn, I suppose, although some Scottish blood flows through the veins from my mother's Mitchum family. My brother's middle name is Byron, after my father, and so I suppose he was once -- but definitely not now -- a wee Byron.

Only kidding! Love ya, kid, you know that.

Whew, how much coffee did I have with that kale? Or maybe it's just those isothiocyanates kicking in.


Joe said...

Kale is the green of choice here in Vermont. They will put it on anything. I happen to enjoy collards and turnip greens. I only like mustard if it is mixed with turnips. As a kid, I hated them and only ate them on New Year's Day because Grandmama insisted it was for wealth in the new year. As I've gotten older and learned how to cook greens, I love them, especially when served with cornbread. Maybe I could change your mind if I cooked some for you.

Michael Dodd said...

I am not surprised to hear that kale is the green of choice in Vermont. I assume Ben & Jerry have a Kale, Kale, the Gang's All Here! ice cream flavor. [Okay, full disclosure: My inner librarian looked it up and their web site says they don not now and never will make a kale ice cream.]

I might like your greens. When I was a kid I despised spinach and now I am a big fan, most especially of fresh spinach. But it is a regular ingredient in Greek food, which Tom has taught me to like. So I am open to new experiences.