Ok, I’ll admit it. I’ve been struggling with the dark, leafy greens. They’re just so…green. I know, I know. They’re soooo good for me. They’re full of antioxidants and iron and other desirable vitamins and minerals. I get it. It’s just, well, they taste like they’re good for me. I feel horribly guilty that I’m not eating kale and collards for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I should love and crave them since they’re so good for me. But I don’t. I open the fridge with an air of trepidation because I know that on the second shelf will be a bunch of collards staring at me. It makes me wonder about all those people who extoll the wonders of these dark, leafy greens. Do they really enjoy eating them? Or are they just swallowing them like pills because they are convinced of the nutritional benefits?
Kale has been all the rage for a while now. I’ve seen t-shirts and bumper stickers encouraging me to, “eat more kale!”. Every time I open a lifestyle magazine or turn on a cooking show, people are raving about kale. Now, at least judging by my mom’s latest visit to the grocery store (see above picture), collards are rising on the list of coveted foods. I simply don’t get it. I mean, really, they are bitter (sorry, ahem, “earthy”) and completely mask the flavor of anything else you cook with them. Well, except bacon. Bacon can hold its own.
Ah. Now, we’re getting somewhere. Here is the real answer of how people usually eat these super healthy foods – with bacon or as pretend potato chips. I spent about half an hour today looking up recipes for collard greens. Of the recipes I found, 95% of them included either bacon or ham hocks. Now, if that’s how you want to serve me collards, go right ahead. In fact, if you’d like to toss an old shoe into a pot with some good bacon, I’ll happily eat that as well. Bacon (and bacon fat) make anything taste better. Bacon is one of the three reasons I will never be a vegetarian (chicken noodle soup and filet mignon with bernaise sauce are the other two). I have no doubt that collards braised in bacon fat topped little bits of crispy bacon are delicious. I bet the same holds true for that old shoe I mentioned.
I had a similar experience when I looked for recipes for kale. I think Google drummed up an entire page of recipes for kale chips. Kale chips are kale smothered in olive oil and salt and baked. They are pretend potato chips. They’re not bad if you are having a salt craving but would feel guilty diving headfirst into a bag of potato chips. They are certainly better for you than potato chips, I’ll give you that. But I’m not sure that using kale chips as the poster recipe for kale completely backs up the argument that we should all “eat more kale!” because it is so good for us. Blueberries are also very good for us, but they are typically offered in the form of, well, blueberries. It’s not suggested that the best way to eat blueberries is in a berry crumble.
So do kale potato chips and bacon enrobed collard greens take away from the nutritional value of these vegetables? I don’t think so. They are both still full of those coveted antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. And they are both still very good for you. I’m sure there are people out there who gnaw on raw kale and collards like they would on a carrot, but it seems like the majority of people would rather have them salted or coated in bacon. Given that that is the case, I think I will stop giving myself a hard time for not waking up craving them. And, in the interest of not wasting food, I will eat those collards that stare so menacingly from the second shelf of my refrigerator. But I will eat them lovingly dressed in bacon bits.