OFF THE CUFF: November 7, 2014

I am not the first to write about kale, but I haven’t been napping. Kale has been heavy on my mind for several years now.

off-the-cuff TH
Published November 7, 2014 6:47 PM
3 min read

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off-the-cuff THI am not the first to write about kale, but I haven’t been napping. Kale has been heavy on my mind for several years now.

off-the-cuff LARGEBy Allen Clark

 

I am not the first to write about kale, but I haven’t been napping. Kale has been heavy on my mind for several years now.

I think my first kale encounter was two decades ago, when our family used to rent an old Cape Cod cottage in Wellfleet that had a large amount of kale growing in a small garden to one side of the driveway. It looked and felt tough and unappealing, even though I must have harbored some suspicion that it had nutritional value. Other than fill out some table settings made from weeds and flowers clipped along the highway, we eschewed kale.

Haven’t you always wanted to be the person who started “the next big thing”? Well, we missed the boat. And, when kale started to appear on every restaurant menu, when cooking columns in the newspaper began to explore the many uses of kale, when “20 ways to chop kale” became the challenge – I knew it was time to give up my dream.

Then, The New York Times published a couple of articles about where kale stood on the “fad index.” Through its proprietary website called “Chronicle” (www.http://chronicle.nytlabs.com), one can see the relative frequency with which words of your choice were mentioned in The Times going back to the mid-1800s. Take “rock and roll,” which first appeared in The Times in 1955 and then ascended at about a 45-degree slope up to peak mentions in 2011.

For the article, The Times tracked the number of times certain “faddy” foods had appeared in print each year. Pork bellies were first mentioned in 1964 but began to soar starting in 2000. Fried calamari, which is now pretty ubiquitous, first came into sight in 1964, plateaued, and started to soar (if pork bellies can soar) in 2000. And kale took off starting in 2006.

What’s interesting, though, is kale seems to have been in vogue (at least for NYTimes’ reporters) as far back as 1893, when it was mentioned more than any other year except for 2012 and 2014. But I bet it wasn’t for Kaleonnaise or Thai’d Up Roughage, spicy Kalejitos or decadent Chocolate Kale Chip Cookies. Those names and recipes are for real, by the way, in the new recipe book “Fifty Shades of Kale.”

What’s next?  I’m betting on kudzu. If someone can just come up with a tasty kudzu health drink, we can solve the ecological threat of rampaging kudzu and help America’s youths expand their challenged brains.
“Kudzu Kola.” I like the sound of it.

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