by Caroline

“I put kale on his plate and put kale on his plate and put kale on his plate, and my son tried it and grimaced and we praised him for trying it and pages flew off the calendar and his beard grew down to the floor, and then one day he ate it without comment. And then one day he ate it and said, “This is actually not as bad as I thought!” After which a pair of bluebirds draped around my shoulders the very banner of joy.” –Catherine Newman in Wondertime Magazine, April 2008

Catherine Newman understands how it goes with kids and vegetables, which is to say she understands how it goes with kids and [fill in the blank] — you cannot ever predict. I’m guessing that her son’s eventual, somewhat grudging acceptance of kale did not mean an end to kale refusal, but was just a moment that she could cling to on days when nothing–with food nor anything else–was going right. He tried the kale. Whatever else happened, he’d at least tried the kale.

In our house, it goes something like this: I put the spinach on the table. It’s sauteed with olive oil and garlic, it’s got a good squeeze of lemon juice on top, and maybe even a sprinkling of pine nuts. Three year-old Eli looks at it and says, “Spinach! Yum!” Then he takes a bite and puts down his fork, shaking his head mournfully, “I’m done with spinach.” The next night, I try again, this time with chard, and he shouts “I’m back in chard corner! I ate five serves of chard!” Six year-old Ben, meanwhile, sometimes gobbles it all up easily, sometimes discerns a drizzle too much olive oil and rejects it outright. All you can do is keep putting the vegetables on the table, but I have learned also, whatever else I am serving, to put down a bowl of carrot sticks. Whatever else might happen, they’ll always eat the carrots, and I can offer myself small comfort  at night that at least they won’t die of scurvy.

I tried something new tonight, and they eyed it with great suspicion. They picked it up from the very edges and just barely let it graze their lips before setting it down, not on their plates, but on the table (a sign of true rejection). I don’t understand it, when basically I was offering them kale potato chips. But also I do understand. Potato chips are familiar; kale is familiar; kale chips are New and thus we are starting the clock on these. But I will persist. The pages will fly off the calendar and perhaps one day the bluebirds will come to me, too.

Kale Crisps

Preheat oven to 250 (yes, that’s a two!)

Wash, dry and trim the kale: Peel off the tough stems by folding the kale leaves in half like a book and stripping the stems off. Toss with extra virgin olive oil. Roast for about thirty minutes. The kale should still be bright green and will be  paper thin and brittle. Remove from oven and sprinkle with sea salt. Transfer kale leaves to a cooling rack so that they stay crispy if you’re not planning to serve them right away.