Kale's Identity Crisis

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I’ll be the first to admit that I LOVE a good healthy food trend. Banana nice cream is delicious (but not to the extent of eating 30 a day); nondairy milks have become increasingly available, and adaptogens are gaining popularity. Kale happens to be one of those trends. Though not favored by all, it’s smack dab in the cultural zeitgeist. And if you live in the western world, you probably have an opinion on it.

It hasn’t always been this way. Rumor has it that Pizza Hut was the largest purchaser of kale up until 2012, and that was solely to garnish its salad bars. So how did kale become a symbol of elitist health culture, rubbing elbows with players like kombucha and avocado toast? Long story short, a fashion PR lady named Oberon Sinclair is responsible. She actually fabricated the existence of an American Kale Association in order to further her healthy agenda, then took them on as a “client.” Shortly thereafter, Beyoncé showed up in a KALE sweatshirt.

I admire the renegade attitude of this lady. (Seriously, can we get her to rep parsnips?) Representing a non-paying client for the good of humanity is true charity work. Kale is on more menus than ever before, and hopefully we’re healthier for it (lol).

But with the good comes the bad, and now we have a bunch of ugly trend paraphernalia plaguing society. There are knockoff KALE sweatshirts, overpriced juices, kale candles, kale-infused face masks, and obnoxious phrases emblazoned on tote bags and tank tops which include, but are not limited to:

  • Beets don’t kale my vibe

  • Kale yeah

  • Oh kale no

  • Kale’n it

  • Kale me maybe

This alone is enough to turn someone off of kale without even having tried it.

Hate to sound like even more of a Debbie Downer, but money is also a thing. Despite being relatively affordable at the grocery store, kale is expensive at restaurants. This is probably because raw kale salads require chefs to massage the leaves, making them more labor intensive than other salads. Still, the high price tag only further characterizes kale as bougie.

I feel like kale has become misunderstood. I feel like we’re losing sight of what it actually is- and that’s a super nutrient dense food that humans have been consuming for millennia. Before fashion PR was an industry. Before brunch was an occasion. Before Beyoncé was even born. Kale is a victim. A fashion victim.

Maybe we should launch a campaign to #savethekales. Or maybe we should just shut up and eat.

Danielle Kocher