RIP, Kale: An Obituary to a Fad

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RIP, Kale: An Obituary to a Fad

Kale died a peaceful death last night, in the early winter months of 2016. A beloved cousin of the Cruciferous family, its legacy joins the likes of renowned child favorites cabbage, broccoli and Brussels sprouts. Kale leaves behind very little, except perhaps a bitter taste in your mouth. Its relevance was five years old.

Kale got its start working as the rough shrubbery lining the perimeter of literally every salad bar in America. One day some jerk knocked a few leaves into his Caesar salad while reaching for the crouton bowl. Fancying it a creative garnish from the Applebee’s sous-chef, the genius forced some of the dark green leaves down his gullet along with his iceberg lettuce. He did not like the taste but felt less guilty about the brownie sundae he ate afterward, so he went home and loudly described this new salad that “wasn’t too bad” to anyone who would listen. The neighbor two houses over heard as she was Googling new juice ingredients. Thus commenced an intricate butterfly effect.

So it began: The year 2012 saw a large spike in green juice sales. By then kale endorsements had blown the roof off of the nutrition pyramid — rich in phytochemicals for eyes, magnesium for bones and antioxidants for hearts, said a physician over a phone somewhere. “Vitamin K to make your waist as thin as your bloodstream,” they said. Few people actually wanted to chew on the plant (“I think I like it,” said one yoga instructor), but drinking it was mercifully efficient. A meal in a bottle, said a man in a cheap suit before adjusting the price tag from $4 to $10.

But kale didn’t stop there.

By 2014, not only were the masses eating it raw as well as boiling and drinking it — they were paying money to do so. Global pop icon Beyoncé wore a T-shirt bearing the word in white lettering, and every clothing store on Rodeo Drive followed suit, desperately careful to get the font just right. Consumption of the leaf continued to rise — data from MyFitnessPal users in 2014 showed a 710% increase in kale consumption over the course of three years. Each successive New Year’s Day saw skyrocketing sales to match ambitious new fad diets. “I actually like it,” said my father.

Then, abruptly, 2016 saw a slump in kale enthusiasm. No one knows how it started, but some trace the shift to a chilling story about models eating too much of the plant and having diarrhea. This whole time, we had trusted kale as our primary food source. Slowly, our “cheat days” began to multiply. More and more dads followed suit. National enthusiasm for “massaging the leaves beforehand for best texture” took a nosedive. It wasn’t long before grocery stores were moving kale off the spotlighted sections of their shelves. Said one lady exiting the supermarket: “That’s just capitalism, man.”

The cause of kale’s death is unknown, but many suspect that the public found a new sweetheart. If I were a betting man, I’d start choosing fonts for those “Cauliflower Rice” T-shirts now — it might not be green, but it pairs pretty well with Buffalo sauce.

A small service will not be held for this plant. If you have any fond memories or parting words, feel free to leave them in the comments below.

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  • McMurple

    Of course you are entitle to you own opinion, but I find healthily seasoned, dried kale to be a fantastic way to add much needed leafy greens to my diet. In SC, the “winter” crop does not have the bitterness of some kale. A lot depends on the grower. I’ve never drank kale, I’m pretty sure the last green substance I drank was Kool-aid, few decades ago.

  • Ann

    I love your kale obituary. The first time I knew what kale was, was about 10 years ago when my grandson fed the stuff to his iguana. When people began offering it to me, I always said no thanks, that is lizard food.

  • Jimmy NoChit

    Jimmy doesn’t eat green leaves, he smokes ’em.

  • Pete Smith

    For goodness sake, it’s a green vegetable, rich in all the usual nutrients. I’ve enjoyed eating it for sixty years and I hope to carry on doing so. That said, I’ve never eaten it raw or as a juice, why would you? Steamed or stir fried it’s wonderful.

  • Loved this post, though I actually love the taste of kale.

    Charmaine Ng
    Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

  • Caitlin

    This is hysterical and very clever!!!! Bravo!

  • Swingshift Worker

    I still eat kale but was never part of the bandwagon. Still like broccoli, brussel sprouts and cabbage too.

  • Gigi

    I live in SC too (like one of the other commenters) and I love winter kale and collards from the garden. Once we get a good hard frost, it tenderizes the kale and makes the flavor mild. It is absolutely fabulous sauteed in a little garlic and olive oil. It cooks in a jiffy once the frost has hit. That said, I LOVE this obit!! Henry is a talented writer with a great sense of humor. I’ve experienced the tough, bitter grocery store kale before and I can see how folks who have never had winter kale that’s been touched by frost would share these sentiments!

  • Karie

    No fond memories of kale to share. Just the thrill of its defeat. If I never take a bite of this foul, bitter, disgusting, garden waste of a plant I will consider my life completely happy.

    Kale is certain to go to the underworld after death, but even all that charcoal heat probably won’t make it any more palpable.

    • Brian

      Palatable not palbable you nimrod

    • Darcey

      If fixed properly, it really can taste good. Sans the bacon/butter mentioned above, Panera serves a Mediterranean Quinoa salad that has kale in it that is quite delicious.

  • harasj79

    Well written! Made me chuckle! Thanks for the late night read❤️

  • NotSoBlah

    Kale, like other dark greens, is best sauteed with bacon, and dressed with cider vinegar and brown sugar. Sure, you can ruin it into health food, but why?

  • red rover

    Unlike the trendy fitness-fad notions promoted in articles like this one, the real truth is that kale has been a staple of northern European rural cultures for centuries, because it can be grown and harvested in the winter. In The Netherlands, it’s called “boerenkool,” which means “farmer cabbage” in English and is a key ingredient in the traditional Dutch dish stamppot, which I had for dinner last night. Delicious comfort food.

    • DutchIvy

      That is the one good thing that came out of this fad: the availability of kale so the Dutch in America can finally make their boerenkoolstamppot again!

  • Lisa

    I love kale, but my kale-hating girlfriend who loves to tease me for my KALE shirt will love this article!
    He he- well written and hilarious!

  • Sara-Amber Thiessen

    I was just thinking about this the other day when I decided to start getting spinach for my egg-white scrambles again.

  • MzTeaze

    Good. Perhaps the price will go back down to where it was pre-fad so I can eat it in peace and budget. Same with my beloved collards.

  • Gary Axford

    Ate Kale before it was trendy. Ate Kale when it was trendy. Will continue to eat Kale. Fried, in Bacon Fat, with some onion and plenty of butter. One of the secrets to my healthy Senior status.

    • voodoopiles

      Spot on !! Chop my bacon small, fry it up with an onion chopped small, sprinkle of chilli flakes, 2 chopped cloves of garlic at the end then blend in all the kale I’ve steamed for a couple of minutes….grate in a bit of parmesan at the end and serve it on some buttery sweet potato mash with a pinch of ginger in it.

      • p rez

        Please save some for me! I’ll love kale (and all leafy greens forever) – trend or no trend!

        • Jana Fuentes

          Exactly–the only real difference for me is that ‘trendy’ stuff ends up costing so much more!

      • Jana Fuentes

        Yum!!

    • jp

      I find that if enough chocolate sauce is on it, I can eat anything.

    • Darcey

      Kerry Gold butter or ghee would make that really tasty.

  • Cindy Eby

    Well, first. Don’t eat that tasteless curly kale that is used as a garnish. It is called “ornamental kale” for a reason.
    Second, I know you think you are funny but I think you are a kneejerk meat eater with no imagination about food.

  • GailGedanSpencer

    Nice try, but not quite the kneeslapper. I still love kale, but mostly dinosaur kale.

  • cfbcfb

    Just had some yesterday, Dumped an entire costco tub of it in a pan with a little avocado oil, salt and old bay. Turn on the heat to medium and let it wilt down to small bowl proportions. Just like collard greens.

    And yes, if you liquefy foods to the point where you can consume 10x what you’d normally eat, and your body gets to absorb it in 15 minutes instead of a period of hours…you’ll be doing yourself more harm than good.

  • A Dodgy Bloke

    Great, now the price of cauliflower is going to skyrocket. Can’t the “Trendy Masses” find another fad? How about Little Debbie Swiss Rolls?

  • Sabine Stroehm

    Love kale. Don’t care if it was a fad, but apparently it was?

  • Ted Stahl

    My mom would make kale and I liked it as a kid. I am almost 63 years old. I still like it and also Kale chips.

  • Mimi Whittaker

    Laughed until I cried – thanks for this well-written wit! RIP, Kale and the horse you rode in on…..

  • kat sullivan

    Didn’t like kale, didn’t join the fad. Don’t like cauliflower, won’t join the fad. There are plenty more good tasting healthy vegetables that I WANT to eat.

  • Chick-fil-A made news last year when they dumped a long time favorite, coleslaw, to add kale to their menu. More accurately their “super food side” consists of kale, broccolini and walnuts drizzled in some kind of sweet sauce. Chick-fil-A is big business, leading me to believe kale was gaining acceptance mainstream. Hmm…. maybe too mainstream for the hipster “before it was cool” crowd?

  • abbyness

    Kale has been my favorite food since I was a small child. I don’t even know what’s wrong with people who think it tastes “bitter.” Beer tastes bitter. I don’t drink it. Wonder if that’s true about the guy who wrote this article?

    • cattail722

      You haven’t tasted the right beer, then. My motto is that there is a beer for everyone, you just haven’t tried it yet 🙂

      • abbyness

        Does ginger beer count?

  • Jennifer Romano

    Never ate the stuff, probably never will.

  • Barbara Roberts

    I think Kales decline followed reports of it affecting the thyroid gland if you were having issues with it. Loved Kale chips

    • Darcey

      Well there ya go. My eye doctor [via Mayo Clinic’s recommendations] has kale first on the list of foods to eat to arrest age-related macular degeneration. But no one says not to eat it if you have thyroid issues. I always looks up side effects on meds to make sure mine are compatible, but never thought about side effects from food. Sheesh.
      Funny, I just bought cauliflower rice due to a BOGO offer on Smart Vegetables thinking it would be easy to add to a salad. Now I’d better look that up.
      Thanks for the head’s up. I’ll still eat kale but won’t obsess on it.

      • Barbara Roberts

        I would be interested to see your list of foods for the macular degeneration. I’m headed that way.
        Thanks in advance for it

        • Darcey

          Sure, Barbara. Here is what I found on their site, which saves me a lot of typing. 🙂 If you go to the Mayo Clinic site and type in macular degeneration, it will also give life-style advice. Along with the foods, my doc has me taking Areds2 vitamins and omega3 I get MaxiVision through Amazon and have read very good reviews of how it has arrested their m d development. But each person is different, so better check with your eye doctor. Here is the list of foods:

          Choose a healthy diet. The antioxidant vitamins in fruits and vegetables contribute to eye health. Kale, spinach, broccoli, peas and other vegetables have high levels of antioxidants, including lutein and zeaxanthin, which may benefit people with macular degeneration. Foods containing high levels of zinc may also be of particular value in patients with macular degeneration. These include high-protein foods, such as beef, pork and lamb. Nonmeat sources include milk, cheese, yogurt, whole-grain cereals and whole-wheat bread.

          Another good choice is healthy unsaturated fats, such as olive oil. And research studies have shown that a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as found in salmon, tuna and walnuts, may lower the risk for advanced AMD. But the same benefit is not shown from taking omega-3 supplements, such as fish oil pills.
          I wish you well! Thankfully it’s only in the very early stages for me and only in one eye.

          • Barbara Roberts

            Thanks Darcey, I keep getting error messages trying to post this, so if you see it more than once it’s the tries!

  • Neolex

    Hilarious cuz it’s so true. now my cauliflower will be twice the price Thanks Kale… BTW i will still eat you in something.

  • Charles Obendorfer

    Trend… shmend. Been eating kale for 50 years and love it. When Whole Foods took over Mrs. Gooch’s I discovered black kale then Russian Kale and years later Tuscan kale. Great greens. But then again I am a big fan of most vegetables although I haven’t found a flesh I don’t like as well. Not one to follow the masses so I will go on eating my kale.

  • I tried it once.

    • Susan Smith

      Love kale this way…put olive oil on cookie sheet. Take out large veins. Break in small pieces. Mix with oil on cookie sheet. Sprinkle with lemon pepper. Bake 450 degrees till real krisp. Around 15 min. Enjoy!

  • Cassandra

    Kale yeah! Okay so this might have been a fad, but I’ve enjoyed it greatly. I think I’ll enjoy it even more when it’s out of the spotlight.

  • Jana Fuentes

    Very sad. I grew up loving spinach, eating turnip greens because my mother fixed them, collards a few times a year, because my mum grew up in the south and that’s what they ate. I started eating kale because it was healthy–discovered I liked it! I will continue to, because I do like it, because I have several recipes for it, and because I’ve never had any problems eating it. So–whatever is next, I’ll probably try it, but I’ll keep on with my other greens, too!

  • The Laughing Badger

    Ah kale, I first tried you by making a kale apple smoothie once. It tasted of bitterness and regret. I’ve since learned to appreciate baby kale. Cooked. Rest in peace, I won’t miss you. Sorry.

  • Lisa

    Fabulous article!! Very entertaining! Poor Kale!

  • thohan

    Great article, just the right amount of snide.

  • Renee J. (RJFlamingo)

    Hopefully to be followed by “green juice”. Banana-flavored lawn clippings. :p

  • Julie Larsen

    Not much to say about kale, but the author is amazing 😉

  • meghen

    Don’t understand why this writer hates Kale so much.

    In a soup, it is THE green to add. Tough stuff, will stand up to any soupy broth challenge.

  • Lisa

    I also enjoyed the wit of this article! Califlower and buffalo sauce? That sounds pretty amazing. I’m glad for the fad. I wasn’t a kale eater, but now I love it so many ways.

  • Darcey

    Really well written article, Henry. Thanks for the laughs………….made my day!