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Kale Meets Yorick. Alas!


So yesterday I went out for lunch at a Mexican place in a strip mall. The kind with combo plates, you know? Like 1 burrito, 1 enchilada,1 taco with rice and beans, and the sodas come in big red nubbled transluscent plastic cups and they stealth calorie you to death with an endless chip basket. You have been to this place or its clone, I am sure.

The food is inexpensive and good, but NOT innovative or surprising in any way. You know the guacamole will come in a little fried corn basket made to look full via a tired slice of tomato and some shredded iceberg. A place like this cannot, by ANY stretch of the imagination, be described as HIP or HAPPENING or NOW or ON TREND. It’s just lunch.

So when I tell you that the lunch special was a Kale Quesadilla, you know instantly that kale is officially over. It’s like 2002, when the PTA president came to gardening club in a toe ring, and suddenly you realized toe-rings were mom-tastic. Only people with minivans really sport them now.

Kale is like that. It has reached maximum cultural saturation and will now begin to disappear from high end restaurants and fancy-pants grocery stores, cool-trickle-down will happen in reverse, and in a few years, kale will be as a leafy-green fever dream that happened in the early parts of the 2000’s.

Upside: You can now eat it all you want without looking like you are trying for The Food Cools. Yes, my fellow dorks and other brands of regular humans, it is open season on kale for non-hipsters.

Upside two: The other day at the YMCA farmer’s market, where I was buying, yes, KALE—-

DIGRESSION: I needed it to make this truly awesome crustless quiche thing with ricotta and artichokes from Kalyn’s Kitchen. Two thumbs up, will make again. END DIGRESSION.

—-I ran into a hipster who had not gotten the KALE IS OVER memo, and she cornered me by the kale basket and smugtured* for a good four minutes about how kale requires one to MASSAGE THE LEAVES to release the OILS and TAME THE BITTERNESS, and as she smugtured, she proceeded to rumple at the leaves of my kale in this creepy way that was both condescending and WEIRDLY SEXUAL, so that as soon as she looked away I swapped out my defiled kale for an unmassaged bunch from the kale basket. I NEVER WANT TO SEE THAT AGAIN, and if Kale is over, then I likely will not.

Downside: I really LIKE Kale. It is very delicious to me. But at the strip mall lunch place, I could not escape the knowledge that in six months, Wendy’s will have a Kale Burger, and by 2018, you won’t be able to find it anywhere except The Rainbow Food Collective for Hippies Who Don’t Care About Trends and Just Want to Eat Things That Are Vegan and Macrobiotic.

Kale is going the way of prosciutto wrapped figs. Remember 1994, when you couldn’t STEP into a restaurant without tripping on a prosciutto wrapped fig? And now you can’t find a prosciutto wrapped fig ANYWHERE. Or – I am trying to think of more food trends, but they slip out of the culture and I forget.

I REALLY should have a 90’s food trend pot luck, to remember the hip foods of yore… HELP ME THINK OF SOME! What used to be THE eating thing, and now it is gone, baby gone?

*Smugtured = Smug + Lecture.

17 comments to Kale Meets Yorick. Alas!

  • Jill W.

    Smugtured is perfect. I am SO using that.

    I can’t think of any 90s food trends either…

  • Jen the Goddess in Virginia

    You may have all of my kale. (I’m generally not a greens person with the exception of fresh baby spinach, which is my salad base preference. Otherwise – and I realize I am betraying generations of my Southern family here – cooked greens are mushy and slimy and ew, and kale leaves me feeling like I’ll be chewing for the next 87 years and might actually gag when I try to swallow it.)

    ’90s food trends…hmmm. I was a teen/young adult for the ’90s, so most of my memories of food revolve around things like Bagel Bites and Hot Pockets. Actually, for me, bagels in general were a ’90s trend. My rural VA town had never heard of bagels, so finding them in the dining hall in college was kind of a revelation. What about veggie burgers? I remember those getting pretty hot in the ’90s. French dips? Focaccia bread? Caesar salad? Bruschetta? Nachos? Thai? Funfetti cake? Pocky and other Japanese treats? Mass-market “fancy” beer like Sam Adams and Killians? Blackened/Cajun meat? Sun-dried tomatoes and pesto on…whatever? Chicken on pizza? Fat-free/sugar-free processed food? These are the things I remember from high school and college.

  • Karen in Maryland

    I’m not a foodie, but at every restaurant the fish of the day was mahi mahi.

  • Sarah

    Oat Bran! I think that was the early 90s

  • (Mahi mahi is actually delicious. But Karen’s right, the trend for it has passed.)

    KALE is delicious. I point out that it was a huge surprise to me to suddenly find it in restaurants and sold prewashed and organic in the fancy grocery store, because I grew up eating it along with pinto beans and cornbread. It was the cooked green of my choice, actually – all the other cooked greens my mother made were tortured into slimy submission, as she had been taught to do to greens that were not lettuce. Kale survived this treatment without becoming slimy. Spinach I didn’t learn to enjoy until I was cooking on my own (my mother thinks I drastically undercook it).

    Seems like caprese salad was all the rage at one time, and now it’s a tired fad. But still delicious. There is probably a lesson in the fact that the faddy foods are yummy. I’m waiting for people to discover beets. Because beets are delicious.

  • edj

    I couldn’t think of any so came to read comments, but now the old noggin is creaking a bit. Pesto, right? It got big. Also sun-dried tomatoes and capers on pizza and in salads. Thai food was super trendy and now every single tiny town has a Thai restaurant.
    The fad foods will be our kids’ comfort foods. Except that we never really got into kale, because it’s so rarely made to taste good, IMO.
    (Also, Mals86, people have already discovered beets. In fact, beet and kale salad is sort of popular. I love beets myself, esp with goat cheese.)

  • 90s food trends: anything made with Olestra which they have since rebranded due to the publicity surrounding the side effect of “anal leakage,” and perhaps on a related note, turbo-bran-filled cereals like Cracklin’ Oat Bran. Also novelty fruit leather (fruit roll-ups, fruit paste molded into animal shapes, etc.)

    The kale massaging makes me cringe.

    Also there is a gluten free restaurant here with bacon-wrapped dates on the menu, so i project a revival of the prosciutto-wrapped fig soon, perhaps in tandem with clunky platforms and babydoll dresses and the Spice Girls reunion tour.

  • Susan

    Sun-dried tomatoes–yuck, I am glad they are over! And flat bread pizza with arugula–why make your pizza into a salad? Just eat salad, for Pete’s sake, and leave the pizza for those who enjoy, you know, PIZZA. With cheese and sauce and toppings that don’t overpower the yummy dough.

  • erinanne

    I read an excellent book last year about food trends called The Tastemakers: Why We’re Crazy for Cupcakes but Fed Up with Fondue by David Sax. I really enjoyed the inside look at how the foods that get to be popular with mainstream America get that way, and how we got to where we are now in terms of food marketing. I don’t remember prosciutto wrapped figs being mentioned, but bacon, apples, and heritage grains all get chapters. There’s also a chapter on why Indian food has yet to reach the mass popularity of, say, Thai food.

    That said, I would be highly offended if someone molested my greens while I was attempting to purchase them. Kudos to you for not smunching (smugly punching) her right in the face.

  • Sandi

    I admit, I Googled this and found several websites with recipes. They reminded me of things like molten chocolate lava cakes, baked brie wrapped in pastry with apricot jam, and barbecue chicken pizza, all of which I really like still. Of course I live in a small-ish city is Wisconsin that is about 10 years behind the times.
    Kale is the base of my favorite grocery store salad, so it must be over. That would make edamame over, too. I don’t care, I love the salad (Schnuck’s is the store, and it’s the Super Food Salad, with kale, edamame, blueberries, onion, sunflower seeds, cashews, dried cranberries, napa cabbage, and carrots with a blueberry pomegranate vinaigrette. It’s awesome, except they also add cherry tomatoes which mess with the sweetness level, and they don’t remove the kale rib/stem so you get the occasional hard chunk of unchewable vegetation.

  • My CSA will never stop growing kale for me, and I hope the trend continues, because she reports terrific sales at the farmers’ market. She introduced me to a whole world of tasty greens, and once when I was dithering over a mixture, “Is this collard or chard?” an older friend said, “Relax. Greens are greens. You fix them all about the same.”
    I watched granola go from homemade hippy food to co-op to breakfast aisle, participating once in a taste panel for a mainstream company wanting to enter the market. I think I shook their belief system when I said I had more confidence in the co-ops barrel of granola than in their hermetically sealed boxes, because I KNEW where our co-op granola came from.

  • Ranger S.

    Sonny Richards fudge at the Youth Fair in Miami. It’s no longer available. Funnel Cake, gyros, artichoke dip, fried cheese, or any fondue. Ranger, out.

  • Gaylin

    Dark greens like kale and spinach are a no go for me, lets just say the ‘end’ result is me in the bathroom for hours. TMI . . . and moving on.

    I am old, I remember when the only cool salad to eat in the ’80’s was the Caesar Salad. Since it is the only salad I really like, I was good with that fad.

    Sun dried tomatoes are gross!

    Since I am allergic to grains, I appreciate the popularity of gluten free everything, I know it won’t last and safe food will again be more difficult to find but I will enjoy it while it lasts.

    And that creepy kale massage woman, woah – I would have found a way to discard that kale so no one ate it!

  • Trish

    Personally, I am waiting for salted-anythingsweet to be over. Enough!

  • Patti Mullinax

    There was a time (maybe 15 years ago) that manufacturers tried altering the normal color of foods… there was green and purple ketchup on the shelves- among other things. The idea was to make food more “fun!” In fact, it reinforced the notion that sight, smell, and taste are all linked and cannot (and should not) be separated.

  • Corey

    Potato skins! There were maybe 5 choices on the happy hour menu: wings, nachos, artichoke dip, pot stickers, and LOADED POTATO SKINS.
    Then there was a brief sweet potato fries thing, but one place nearby started serving them with SUGAR instead of a savory version, and those things are dead to me.

  • Bruschetta was SO big. As was its horrible stepchild, sun-dried tomato pesto, which is gross and bitter and dry and sticks in your teeth and haunts you with wee flecks. (I prefer the SDP of the 80s, known as: the good kind of pesto, made of basil.) BUT the biggest offender of the 90s was: fried goat cheese! Which was so good on a salad.

    Kroger’s luxe (!) house brand has these frozen microwaveable molten chocolate lava cakes and I store them in the deep depths of the freezer where the kids can’t reach. Because I am a terrible person who eats my stress with a side of organic vanilla ice cream. From Publix. So I am also killing the earth by shopping at 2 stores. Something about eating a Private Selection (!) lava cake fits with a PTA toe-ring (which I do *not* have).