Like so many others, I’ve always wondered what the deal is with kale.
It doesn’t taste good, it doesn’t look good, and it reminds me far too much of a plant you’d probably find at the bottom of the ocean floor than to find it appetising enough for my morning smoothie.
But of course, trends never actually cater to things that are convenient. In fact, the trendiest of items are always the most inconvenient. How else can you explain the rise of frozen bananas in place of ice cream (disclaimer: frozen banana isn’t ice cream) or cacao in the place of chocolate?
Then there are the pint-sized milk crates in the place of chairs at your local cafe. None of this stuff was designed for user experience. But we are blind conformists, so we blindly follow.
But now Dan Nosowitz, writer for The Awl, has blown society’s kale-obsessed facade open, writing that we should be ditching kale and revisiting our old and loyal friend in spinach.
Writing for the website’s column Crop Chef, Nosowitz argues our love of kale has no basis and adds little to our favourite dishes, despite making us feel much trendier than we otherwise would.
“Eating spinach is something your parents would do. Eating kale — stringy, bitter, aggressive kale — is the mark of an adventurous, flavour-forward connoisseur,” he writes.
“Dishes do not usually become better or even more interesting when a trendy ingredient or process is foisted onto them. They almost always become worse.”
With this in mind, it’s as if kale has been able to employ the world’s most efficient PR team in history, turning a bland, green, everyday plant into a global phenomenal that has had a meteoric rise. So meteoric, in fact, that in the US alone kale production increased by nearly 60 per cent between 2007 and 2012, according to their Department of Agriculture.
If that’s not enough for you, US Weekly even dedicated a feature to the green in 2014, aptly titled “Stars Who Love Kale.”
For Nosowitz, however, kale is not all bad news.
Listen: Monique Wright [fake-]interviews the king of food trends, Pete Evans. (Post continues after video.)
“That’s not to say that kale is a bad ingredient; it just needs to be used thoughtfully.”
For rookie kale people like myself, it’s perhaps a safe assumption that all of the green leafs that make up our salad choices are part of the same family. But that’s not the case for spinach and kale, and it’s for this reason you can’t just substitute one for other. Nuh-uh.
And also? Spinach is cheap.
“Spinach may not be cool, but I hope it stays that way, because it costs about two bucks for a huge bundle and it’s delicious, healthful, and tremendously flexible and easy to work with — easier, by a long shot, than kale,” Nosowitz concludes.
After all, he argues, a good cook who understands food will cook with spinach and understand its value over kale.
“A good cook will think about ingredients and methods, what those ingredients are best at and what they’re not so good at, and use them accordingly, rather than blindly following food trends to their illogical extreme,” he explains.
“And a good cook will also use spinach. Because spinach is so tasty.”
So it’s settled, then?