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Adventures in Grocery Shopping: I am Kale Lady! [How do you eat your greens?]

Posted Nov 06 2012 11:30pm

Now this is a real kale lady. Thank heavens her grocery store carried more than four bunches or she’d be in a salad bikini… like all the rest of the PETA girls. Also? I find this guy strangely creepy. I hope she made him pick a piece from the bottom of her dress. 

Gasp. “It’s YOU!” The grocery checker stared at me with a look of both reverence and horror.

“It is… me,” I said tentatively. “Are you, you?” I was waiting – a little hopefully – for what was coming next. Message from Michelle Obama on Mars? Advice on transcendental meditation? A theory on life, the universe and everything? I’m telling you, the most entertaining people I meet are in grocery stores. That’s probably why I go shopping so often. (Yeah, that’s totally why. It has absolutely nothing to do with how much fun my kids and I have trying on neon-colored slap watches.)

“You’re the Kale Lady!” he exulted. Leaning over to the next lane he hollered at the girl, “Amy, it’s the Kale Lady! I finally got the Kale Lady!” She grinned and waved at me.

“I’m so honored?” I replied, still confused.

“Okay, so we each have our theory but I think it’s guinea pigs.” He looked at me expectantly.

“Guinea pigs…?” I asked, realizing that Jelly Bean was taking full advantage of my distraction and was now efficiently stuffing her pockets with packages of lip balm. (Holy crap that child loves her “lips”. And you should see the blissed out look on her face every time she indulges in a little Bonne Bell moment.)

“All that kale you buy. You must have a lot of guinea pigs, right? I mean, Joe in produce thinks it’s because you’re some kind of health nut really into juicing. But Maya in the deli is sure you’re using it as an herbal remedy – she read on the internet that it’s really good for your thyroid if you dry it and make it into tea. But me, I think it’s pet food.”

Kale tea? My brain tried to picture that one for a minute (It sounds awful, right? But maybe it’s good? I’ve drank stranger things.) and then I realized what they were talking about. A creature of habit, I always frequent the same couple of stores and 9 times out of 10 it’s Target because, hello, where else can you buy organic chicken, goat’s milk, dry-erase markers, windshield wipers and a bright blue Jason Wu clutch that will match exactly one outfit in my closet? (Note to self: stay away from the accessorizes department.) But deceptively cheap designer goods aside, my first stop is always the produce department where – every time – I clean out their kale section. It’s true. I buy however many bunches they have out there (usually between 4 and 6). I just grab the whole lot, shove them in a bag from the floral department (they’re bigger) and go my merry way to check out the Christmas lights aisle. (I am drawn to those new sparkly LED lights like Mariah Carey to Hello Kitty.)

I never thought much of it. But clearly the staff at Target had.

“Actually,” I said, turning bright red, “it’s none of the above. Although Joe-from-Produce is probably the closest.” Amy high-fived Joe who had wandered over to join the conversation. “I just eat it.”

“Who eats five bunches of kale a week?” Checker Guy yelled, clearly upset he’d lost the weird-customer bet of the day.

“I do. My kids do.” And while it was tempting to just leave it there and make them all think I was some ultra healthy mom-warrior who had so disciplined her children that they beg for leafy greens (never mind the little dirty one with hair in her face that had now moved on to shoving packages of fruit snacks down her pants), I clarified, “I make a lot of kale chips.”

“And those are good?” Joe-from-Produce asked.

I nodded. “So delicious in fact that I once took them to a dinner party and not only did the hostess love them so much that she ate every last one but she kept my bowl too.” (You know who you are! I keep waiting for a ransom note but in the meantime if it were to mysteriously appear on my doorstep full of kale – or a bright blue Jason Wu dress with exposed zippers – I could be convinced to forget the whole bowl-napping affair.)

“How do you make them?” Amy asked.

“It’s so super easy. Not even I can mess them up. And I’m the girl who once made cookies that came out looking like turds – from a person with a fiber fetish.”

1. Cut the rib out of the kale leaves.

2. Chop or tear the kale into medium-sized pieces.

3. Toss in a bowl with olive oil and sea salt – just eyeball it.

4. Bake at 350 until crispy. (Watch them closely as they go from green to burnt faster than Katy Perry changes hair colors.)

5. Eat and enjoy. (They get crispier as they cool.)

Bonus: You can doll them up in all kinds of ways! Vegan cheezy kale chips , chocolate coconut kale chips , primal kale chips , cinnamon crunch kale chips , baked parmesan kale chips , spicy kale chips … you get the idea.

Not only is this my favorite way to eat my kale, it’s about the only way I eat it. It’s not bad in smoothies – you stick enough fruit in anything and it will taste decent. It good sauteed or in stir-fries. It’s really not good in salads. It’s tough and chewy and adult kale (that is the opposite of baby kale, yes?) has a slightly bitter flavor when eaten raw. Unless you grow it in your backyard like my awesome gardening husband did – and then it fraternized with the habanero plant on those hot summer nights and you end up with ultra spicy kale. Yowza.

But this greens-into-chips process doesn’t work with everything. On a whim one day I tried swiss chard, mustard greens and beet tops. No dice. I just got a soggy mess. So those I usually stick to stir frying. So I need some new ideas! And quick, before I get any more crazy comments at the store.

Do you love the kale too? What is your fave type of greens? How do you eat it? What’s the strangest thing anyone’s ever said to you in a grocery store?

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