On Kale and S&M-lite

When I walked into my office after grabbing some coffee in the kitchen, I was stunned (or maybe more like mortified) to find a cookbook someone dropped off on my desk titled Fifty Shades of Kale: 50 Fresh & Satisfying Recipes That Are Bound to Please. (The puns in the subtitle alone galled me.) Surely someone was playing a joke on me on my first day as the new Food + Drink Editor here at Seattle Weekly was my first befuddled thought. But, duh, it’s a real, hardcover book published by HarperCollins this week. My shock/confusion/mortification lay in the marriage of two trends that I’ve been lamenting for the last year — Kale and Fifty Shades of Grey — and the fact that they had absolutely nothing to do with each other: Vegetable, Erotica (ok, well they have nothing to do with each other in my world).

Coming from my former career as a book publisher, I’d long grown weary of all of the 50 Shades of Grey rip-offs on the market, and had been at one too many a meeting to discuss the acquisition of the “Next 50 Shades.” Plus, I tried reading the book and gave up several chapters in. Hadn’t anyone ever read The Story of O for God’s sake? Yes, I know that Fifty Shades is S&M-lite, and therefore acceptable to a more mainstream audience, but after I read a metaphor that compared an orgasm to the spin cycle on a washing machine, I just couldn’t bare the crummy writing (S&M authenticity aside).

And then there’s kale. Full disclosure: I love it. I loved it as a kid. It was always preferable to spinach because, unlike Spinach, if your mom overcooked kale it didn’t get slimy. It just burns and gets crunchy, like a chip. I was excited to see it start appearing on menus — served raw in salads, flavor-boosted with garlic, anchovies, parmesan cheese, pine nuts, raisins and a whole host of other Kale-friendly accompaniments. But I’m over it. Over it in the same way I’m over pork belly. Yummy stuff but c’mon chefs: Why do y’all have to hang your tall white hats on the same trendy ingredients for so long? Why do you have to kill a true kale lover’s humble love for this leafy green?

When I showed my Editor-in-Chief the book, he wondered how the authors felt about the title, whether they’d been bamboozled into it by their publisher. Yeah, I thought to myself. I know how that can happen. To give them the benefit of the doubt, I decided to open up the book and have a look. In all fairness, there are some tasty-sounding recipes. But when I turned to one called “Lox Me Up and Throw Away the Key,” much like I gave up on 50 Shades, I had to call it quits on this one as well. But I can’t stop wondering whether the “Blueberry Kale Smoothie” and “Cream of Kale Soup” are meant to be subtle erotic puns. Given that nothing else about this book is subtle, I’m guessing not.

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