Note: This story took place a month and a half ago, and only because of my incessantly over-cautious behavior when it comes to keeping ridiculously strict levels kashrus. You are, by no means, required (or even encouraged) to repeat this incident, whether checking Kale or any other vegetable.
*Announcer approaches the podium at the 2011 Green Gala Awards*
“Alright all of you leaves and herbs, it’s the time every vegetable out there has been waiting for. Is the veggie you’ve been root-ing for going home with the big one tonight? Drum roll, please!”
“Aaaaaand… the winner of the all-time most annoying vegetable to check for bugs before eating isssss…”
*The crowd goes wild*
Dramatic? Yeah, maybe. But seriously, what was G-d thinking when he made a vegetable so difficult to deal with?
My rocky relationship with this leafy green started about a month and a half ago…
As I was packing for my move from Florida to New York and looking for a million and one ways to procrastinate, I finally decided to jump on the bandwagon and get a Groupon account. What made me finally give in? I took a look at the ‘Deals’ page for New York City, and there, right in front of my eyes, was a $40 box of fresh organic vegetables hand-picked and delivered to your door (anywhere in the Five Boroughs) for just $19. I was sold. So was the box of vegetables.
Flash forward a few weeks. I’m broke. I have no money and no food. The light bulb goes off and I remember my nice big box of veggies waiting for me somewhere in Queens. So I go to the Urban Organic website, fill out the form with my Groupon Number, and ta-da! Nice box of veggies on the way that following Tuesday!
At least they were supposed to be… *cue dramatic music*
That weekend was the Hurricane/Tropical Storm/Less-intense-than-a-daily-4pm-shower-in-Florida: Irene. And while the *cough* storm was wimpy, it did take down some trees. (No idea how.) And so my delivery of veggies was delayed, and I was forced to begin consuming the hurricane food reserves that I definitely did not need for the storm itself. Cans and cans of tuna fish. I can’t stand tuna fish.
Nevertheless, I made it through the week without turning into the scrawny feline I was eating like, and that Tuesday I eagerly awaited my very much-needed box of produce. And so I waited. And waited. And waited. And that box stood me up. How DARE he!
After a call to the Urban Organic filled with “sorry! it was so crazy after the storm, blah blah blah,” I sorted out that I would FINALLY get my veggies today, between 6pm and 10pm. When I got home from work, lo and behold, there they were. At two in the afternoon. My poor, tender flora, stuck in the hot afternoon sun for who knows how long!
After rushing them into my slightly cooler apartment, I began to sort through the goodies. Noticing quite the variety, I was pleased. But one leafy substance overwhelmed the rest of the contents, taking up at least a third of the box. Two GIANT bundles of Kale.
Now, never having tried Kale before (that I can remember at least), and certainly never cooking Kale before, I scoured Google for what I was actually supposed to do with it. Settling on a quick and easy saute recipe, I got to the food prep. The site said 5 minutes pre-cooking, 10 minutes cooking. Piece of cake. Now I just had to figure out how to check the stuff.
See, the thing with vegetables and fruits, at least any that aren’t from Israel, is that they’re Kosher. 100% good to eat. The only catch is that you have to wash them and make sure there are no bugs, since creepy crawlies definitely are not Kosher. Now there are certain types of veggies that are immune to insect infestation, so you only really need to check a few pieces as a sample and then clean it under running water. We’ll call that a “Type A” veggie. Then there are the “Type B” veggies, ones that are prone to little insects scattered throughout, such as iceberg lettuce. And much to my chagrin, I discovered that Kale is indisputably placed into the Type B category.
Checking lettuce in general is a pain. This was not a pain. This, my friends, was one of the ultimate displays of Kabbalas Ol (“accepting the yoke of Heaven”) that I have ever displayed in my life. What was supposed to be a five-minute preparation for cooking rapidly turned into a 35-minute-long foray into a seemingly unlimited number of folds on a seemingly unlimited number of leaves. It was so painstaking laborious that by the time I had checked half of one bunch, I was hoping out loud that I would actually find a bug so that this whole process would be justified. Alas, I made it through the entire mountain of greenery and not one little aphid was to be found.
Granted, the mitzvah isn’t to find bugs, it’s just to look for them. Whatever “reward in the world to come” I get for fulfilling the commandment “Thou shalt not eat creepy crawlies,” is achieved just the same. Not that it matters, since we really shouldn’t be doing mitzvahs for a reward in the first place. We’re not five-year-olds (most of us anyways), and we’re not begging for a gold star on the chore sheet. We’re looking for something deeper, something more mature than that. We’re looking for connection. We’re looking for love.
In reality, the very fact that I tried so hard and didn’t find anything probably brought me even closer to G-d than if I had found bugs. It’s like a husband and a wife. The wife asks her spouse to go to the store to pick up a particular kind of spice she wants to use for dinner. The dutiful husband leaves right away for his mission (a girl can dream, right?) and heads to the nearest grocery store, but alas, no special cooking spice. He could just go home and say, “Sorry, they didn’t have it,” but instead he goes to another store. No such luck. And another. Same result. After searching for nigh-on hours, he finally heads home, his head hanging in disappointment and frustration at having to return empty-handed. He walks in the door and confronts his waiting wife. “I’m sorry, honey. I couldn’t find it. I looked everywhere!” Instead of being angry, she smiles and says, “I can’t believe you cared enough to search for so long!” His answer? “I care because I know it’s something you want…” Awwwwww. They live happily ever after.
So it would seem that despite the frustration, this Kabbalas Ol Kale is just what I needed. A little sacrifice for the sake of G-d. A chance to come closer to my Creator.
If you’re looking for a tasty vegetable, Kale is an option. If you’re looking for a quick and tasty vegetable, this is definitely not your best bet. But if you’re looking for a connection to G-d with a side of greens, head to your nearest produce department today and pick up the winner of the Green Gala Awards grand prize. Just make sure you’re not in a rush…