Faint Praise for a Coarse Cultivar

Three foods top my No Thanks list: schmaltz herring, Marmite and kale.

My sole experience with schmaltz herring – basically, raw fish preserved in rancid chicken fat – was anything but a gustatory delight.

I also tried Marmite once. I even sampled its malevolent cousin, Vegemite, during a visit Down Under. Ptooey.

Fortunately, in this part of the globe, we rarely risk having the butler surreptitiously smear that creosote-like spread onto our morning toast.

Kale, on the other hand, is harder to avoid. The leafy, rumpled-looking atrocity is everywhere.

Now, I’m usually willing to try almost anything twice before invoking my right of refusal. So I have actually eaten kale. Twice. Three times, even.

Frankly, I’d rather chow down on a bale of chlorophyl-flavoured hay than try a fourth helping.

I have no idea how the vile stuff came into existence. I suspect it is the by-product of a horribly-bungled experiment in an underground lab somewhere under the Mojave Desert.

Kale evangelists would have you believe it is the king of greens, a powerhouse of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory goodness, the very definition of a miracle food.

They claim it is unsurpassed as a source of what we delicately call dietary fibre nowadays. In a simpler era, we called it roughage, because it’s rough at both ends of the alimentary canal.

Kale’s secret, they say, lies in proper cooking. This not only unleashes its nutritional wonderfulness, it actually makes it mmm-mmm yummy.

In our hipster paradise, it pops up kale salads, kale soups, even kale chips to go with Netflix and beer. I’m sure it’s also being snuck into kale bread, kale muffins, kale pop tarts and kale petit fours.

My own wife once had the temerity to suggest I might enjoy her kale and sausage stew. I don’t know how long she’s been the agent of a hostile alien race, but I assured her I had no intention of falling for that ruse.

Being a fair-minded chap, though, I’m willing to concede that the sturdy kale may possess some utilitarian value. Lashed to a pole, it might be excellent at sweeping cinders from the family hearth.

And if ever one is ever required to thatch the roof of a hobbit house, kale would be ideal. It is decorative and thick, with a rich and pleasant colour.

Best of all, it’s far too bitter-tasting to attract marauding birds or other varmints.

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