(You have to say it with a southern accent.)
More than a year ago, my friend Nathalie suggested we go to an AMAP (Associations pour le Maintien d'une Agriculture Paysanne) event on Canal de l'Ourcq and talk to actual farmers to see if they'd be willing to consider growing it. One fellow expressed an interest, but only if we had enough people to make it worth his while. He needed a commitment of 30 people, which was about triple the number of people I actually new in the city. I gave up. I figured I could eat collard greens and gai lan--also known as Chinese kale--until I was back in the land of the red, white, and greens.
Back in June, on a trip to London, I picked up two bunches of kale (all I had room for) at a Whole Foods market and ferried them back home on the Eurostar. Reacquainting myself with this this old edible friend only amplified the longing for it; would it be reasonable to consider quitting France simply to gain better access to my beloved vegetable? The kale-obsessed quadrant of my brain said "oui."
Then, nearly without warning, un petit miracle: My friend and fellow expat Karin introduced me to Kristen, another kale-loving American. The difference between my love of kale and Kristen's is that this girl didn't just whinge about the no-kale situation; she actually embarked on a no-stopping-until-success mission she dubbed The Kale Project to bring the damn stuff to France. In September, her efforts made so many wishful thinkers' dreams come true: She got the farmers to grow it, and now it's being sold at a few outdoor markets in gay, gay Paree. Hallelujah! Praise Kristen!
Kale had its coming-out party at Verjus, a lovely little restaurant owned by a pair of (yep, you guessed it) expat Americans. The restaurant is the current darling of the Parisian "modern French" dining scene, and I'd wanted to check it out ever since discovering they'll do a vegan menu with a bit of advance warning. I gave absolutely no advance warning when I showed up asking for something kale-ish and vegan. (If you assumed, wrongly, as I did, that a kale menu implied there would already be something vegan, you would have been, as I was, saddened to discover otherwise.) The good news was that the wonderful chef busted out an impromptu kale gaspacho that totally exceeded my taste-bud's expectations. You really can't go wrong when you mix kale with heirloom tomatoes, smoked almonds, fennel, and onions.
A freelance reporter for the New York Times turned up for the event, as did a lot of pretty, blonde young things who look like they'd gone a long time without eating kale--or any other kind of food. But the star of the show was definitely Kristen, the kale messiah of the vegetable-loving Parisian masses. Where will I be this Sunday? At "church," otherwise known as the outdoor market, giving thanks for kale.