The World’s Healthiest Foods!


My parents disapproved of new things. Why would we need new things? What’s wrong with old things? That was their mantra. This was especially true in the matter of foodstuffs. Dining. Cooking. Eating. Experimentation in the kitchen was not tolerated. It was a kind of culinary heresy, an unnatural act, unwholesome, the sort of thing spoken of in Leviticus.

This rule applied to restaurants as well. We never went anywhere new. Why take a chance? The same tepid steak- houses and genteel, shabby comfort food emporiums were permanent in rotation. Nothing new. Ever.

I vexed them for long years by attempting to bring new dining ideas into their lives.  Indian food. Bad idea. Kung Pao chicken. Very bad idea. Pad Thai. Very, very bad idea.  My mother would have had to be put in a restraining jacket to get her into an Indian restaurant. My parents resisted conversion. They had seen arugula but believed this to be some sort of gardening prank. My parents thought arugula was a scalp disorder and pesto was insect repellent. Like “Pest-O.” Their home remained a shrine to iceberg lettuce all the days of their lives.

Now my grown daughter bedevils me with new ideas. And I am my parents. She lives in New York City, but she makes errands of mercy to Baltimore. And when she returns home it is to proselytize about healthy foods I might not know about, so that I might live forever.  That’s how kale entered my life.

My parents would not have approved of kale. What’s wrong with spinach? Kale looks like a weed. It reminds me of the venerable New Yorker cartoon where the reluctant child diner says “I say it’s spinach, and I say the hell with it.” That’s me.

I have now been given to understand that kale is the healthiest food one can eat. It cures cancer (that’s the great standard of American quackery) and eliminates erectile dysfunction, cellulite, baldness and the heartbreak of psoriasis. It lowers cholesterol, promotes regularity—and allows the consumer to see in the dark and leap tall buildings in a single bound. Last time my daughter was here she was pushing a kale drink. She called me from the juice bar in Belvedere Square to see if I might fancy a kale shake. Not in this life, thank you. Kale does nothing for me. And I was cheered to read in The New York Times that the French as a nation resist it, too. Vive la France!

I hadn’t really come to terms with kale when quinoa arrived. The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations has officially declared 2013 “The International Year of the Quinoa.” Betcha didn’t know that? Well, get with the program, pilgrim. Eternal life awaits you. (When’s the International Year of the Bacon Cheeseburger?)

Quinoa is a grain from South America that looks like the stuff we fed the bunny that came to stay with us during summer vacation when my daughter was in kindergarten.

Some folks call quinoa “the super food.” These are folks who are really, really hungry, I think. The word quinoa is pre-Colombian and it means “the stuff we fed the bunny that came to stay with us during summer vacation.” It’s shorter in that language.

Apparently quinoa was the food that made the Incan Empire the Incan Empire, the largest pre-Colombian empire! Who knew? Alas, it was not enough to fend off the conquistadors. Francisco Pizarro was a red meat eater, I believe. But that’s another story, as they say.

Naturally, Americans have missed the boat on quinoa and kale. We could become the world’s greatest quinoa and kale producing nation. But we lag behind now. Scientists say we are producing only enough quinoa to feed 170 hipsters in Portland, Ore. That just won’t do. We are totally dependent on foreign quinoa! Surprised? The quinoa producing nations are toying with us. They can set the price of quinoa and we have to pay. It’s as simple as that. (And that’s why everything costs so much at Whole Foods!)

My daughter keeps assuring me that kale and quinoa are “among the world’s healthiest foods.”  Says who?  Folks who sell kale and quinoa. What do I look like an Inca?

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