Growing up, we ate only two kinds of greens in my Midwestern family: iceberg lettuce salads (served with store-bought dressings of various kinds) and canned spinach (heated up by my mother on the stove and served with vinegar and salt)—neither a glowing testament to the taste and/or health benefits of greens. Fortunately, I later learned to enjoy other kinds of lettuces and salad greens (including fresh spinach), but for many years I ate only raw salads and never cooked greens.
One day, though, after discovering a macrobiotic cafeteria called Casa de Luz in Austin, Texas, I was enjoying a meal and a book when several people came into the cafeteria. They set up some propane burners and began a macrobiotic cooking class taught by Chef Dawn Ludwig, owner (at that time) of the Natural Epicurean Cooking School. I became intrigued and watched the entire class. I was invited to taste the subtly delicious food they cooked and quickly signed up to take the cooking class series, a move that ultimately changed my view of food forever.
The cooking basics I had learned from my mother were nothing like what Chef Dawn taught. My family had eaten a meat-and potatoes-based diet. Chef Dawn’s emphasis on delicious vegetables, simply cooked and paired with brown rice or other grains, was a delightful surprise to me. One of the primary vegetables emphasized was a lightly cooked kale or dinosaur kale (completely cooked but not soggy), a vegetable I had never eaten before, cooked—or not—in any way.
I was surprised how much I enjoyed the kale.
The taste was slightly bitter, but contrasted against the taste of miso soup, grains and other veggies, I found that I enjoyed it. Chef Dawn emphasized that if one had difficulty with the bitter taste, a flavorful tahini sauce would reduce the perception of the bitterness. (Fun aside: She mentioned that healthy sauces were one way to get kids to eat more cooked greens.) I tried the sauce and liked it, but also found that I had developed a taste for the slight bitterness of kale. Today, I prefer cooked kale without a sauce.
A love for the taste of kale wasn’t the only thing Chef Dawn taught me. I also learned that….
- Asian medicine values the taste of bitter to balance the sweet and salty tastes, and because the bitter taste is believed to be good for cleansing the liver.
- Kale and dinosaur kale are two of the most nutritious foods we can eat.
- Cooked kale is easier for the body to digest, which is good to know if you have any kind of health condition that makes easier digestion essential.
Moral of the story? Try kale if you haven’t. Not a newsflash here, but it’s the truth: Not only is it really good, it is really, really good for you.
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