Kale, and moralizing

My…life-sharing-person (let’s call him LSP) discovered kale chips a few weeks ago, and he is on a bit of a bender. He’s been buying a bunch or two of kale every week to roast up and eating it in one go. This is quite funny to me for two reasons: that I love kale in almost any form except for kale chips, and that I am pretty sure this is the first time I’ve known him to purchase a leafy green vegetable for our fridge. And because kale chips come together so easily he’s probably eaten more than twice as much kale as I have in the past three weeks or so.

It’s not exactly a surprising development as kale seems to have become a trend ingredient quite recently. Five years ago the only menus you found it on were earthy, alternative, vegetarian joints, and it was a bit difficult to find in average groceries. It was seen as hippie food. Recently though, it’s all over the place, especially in salad, chip and green smoothie form. I am new to it as well but I eat quite a bit, the main way I prepare it sauteed with lots of caramelized onions. (When you don’t know what to do with an ingredient, just cook it with caramelized onions.) I think its bitterness is best married with sweetness and love that to cut a starch, often piling this saute on top of potatoes.

LSP doesn’t eat kale in the ways I do, but what’s so fun about this vegetable is how diverse it is. We are polar-opposite eaters and (I) have learned to accept that we don’t share food, but it was satisfying to be able to tell him not to bother buying more kale because I had an embarrassing three bunches in my fridge that needed to be used up (I should to wrote about my iffy food shopping habits in the future).

But here’s something that’s bugging me: my instinct in this situation is to feel pride – to think, “Look at LSP! He’s eating leafy greens! Good for him!” This doesn’t jive with my values. I wholeheartedly embrace a Heatlh at Every Size approach to eating, believing that nutrition is incredibly individual and that food and eating are – at least mostly – morally neutral. And yet here I am assigning value judgments to the food choices that LSP, the person whom I least want to judge, makes.

I have egg on my face, because a few weeks ago Michelle of The Fat Nutritionist wrote a fantastic post about how we feel, psychologically, when we eat “good” foods – with kale chips as the example vs. potato chips – and my mental response was to blow wind. I just genuinely like kale, that’s why I eat it, not because I think it’s “virtuous!” Yeah, okay. I believe food is morally neutral but practicing that is so much harder. Much as I love my green leafies, if you put sauteed kale and mashed potatoes in front of me and told me to choose one, I’d either choose the kale and wish I were eating potatoes, or choose the potatoes and struggle not to berate myself for doing so.

I derive a lot of joy from discovering and enjoying new foods, which is a genuine reason I was excited about LSP’s kale chip discovery. I am very familiar with the compulsion to eat a new delight ALL the time. But there are other levels of my excitement that are making me uncomfortable, and I think I’m going to spend a little time re-reading some of Michelle’s great writing to help work myself out of the cultural messaging that I should judge myself and others, positively or negatively, on what we choose to eat.

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One thought on “Kale, and moralizing

  1. Michelle April 11, 2013 at 2:36 am Reply

    The really ironic thing is I have been eating a ton of kale lately, hahahaha, since I’ve had kale on the brain. And I catch myself feeling virtuous because these beliefs are so pervasive, and we are such amazingly symbolic and social creatures that we soak up subtext and gestures toward social status like sponges. There is no shame in that – but self-awareness is always a good thing, too.

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