For a couple of weeks last winter, I went on a kale-eating spree. I didn’t do this on purpose, exactly. I was making my way through a list of newish New York restaurants I wanted to try, or to revisit because fall had surrendered to winter and I knew their menus would have changed. Most of these places had Dickensian names, names broken by ampersands, or names that sounded like old Vermont family farms. Many had menus freshly jotted on chalkboards, the provenance of the main ingredient in each dish noted. And every last one of them was serving a kale salad. Not long into my dining tour, right around the time I confronted a version with apple and dry Jack at a restaurant a block away from where I’d just had a version with apple and cheddar, I began to regard kale salad the way, as a kid, I viewed my mom’s second flounder dinner in the same week: with resentment.
My spree came to an end at a perfectly lovely, smart young Italian restaurant in Brooklyn. It’s not that I was looking forward to carciofi—I knew not to expect out-of-season artichokes at a place known for its market-driven menu. But I didn’t expect to be offered a kale salad. I felt betrayed, sitting there on my stool clutching a season-befitting quince cocktail. I felt like a road warrior so disoriented by sameness, I didn’t know what hotel I was in anymore, never mind what city.
- What Does Eating Well Really Mean?
- Cooking Like Alice Waters
- Cookbook: Healthy Eating Is All In The Famiglia
- Spring Recipes for Seasonal Produce
- Fresh Summer Produce
- Fresh Fall Produce
- Fresh Winter Produce
- How to Eat Like a Locavore
What followed my kale bender, as often does benders, was a mild depression. What’s wrong with me? I thought. Of all the things to complain about, I was criticizing chefs for systematically removing stringy asparagus from my winter plate and replacing it with the sweetest, tastiest, most environmentally beneficent produce around. The proliferation of seasonally driven menus, albeit a trend mostly still confined to a certain kind of restaurant in a certain kind of town, promised better dining experiences and a smaller culinary carbon footprint for America—a win-win. Come spring, I could count on more chefs than ever to rain morels, fiddleheads and ramps down on me. And I was dreading it.