Kale The Bittersweet

Kale fried with dill seed is actually kind of good. If it exceeded my expectations, you might wonder why then did I cook it? There is a bag full of dill seed, at least I think that’s what it is, in the kitchen cupboard, I have no idea why. I don’t know what could I have been cooking for which I specifically needed dill seed. It smelled appealing when I was looking for a way to cook some wilting kale. Not knowing what it was, and knowing that nobody else was going to eat it, I fried it and some black pepper in sesame oil before throwing in the kale, which in parts soon became almost blackened with slightly bitter anise-like flavor. I felt that this was becoming a disaster: burnt, nasty flavor. When I finally tasted it, I liked it, but doubted the verity of my impression. Is this simply novelty? Would anyone else like this? Would I like this at any other time? Could I have carried out any experiment and been happy with the results? In other words, does this taste exist only in the fleeting moments when I devoured the fried kale? This of course is also a delusion--the “taste” was built as I remembered it, thought of how I would describe it, and began writing this blog entry. And what will probably drive me to make it again is a desire to have again the inflated memory that never quite was.

Such food passions vary in their capacities to disgust, satisfy, and beg to be tried again. Take the sugar binges that made up a good deal of my friendship with someone: every so often (perhaps weeks, perhaps months or years) we would make an absurd amount of some sugary dessert. Our enthusiasm diminished dramatically the more of it we ate, and after not too long we became disgusted with it. I would usually continue to nibble, helplessly in its thrall, exemplifying and sometimes uttering the phrase “take it away from me.” Overdoing it like this cured us for quite a while of our desire for whatever we had just made. But eventually one of us would want to try this all over again--not necessarily the exact same dessert, but to again go through the process from desire to disgust.

Emma Recchi's brief moment. Favorite dishes are quieter and less dramatic. In fact, good cooking might be defined by its ability to not quite satisfy. To keep one on the point of wanting, to not overdo it. It is in this way that less can be more--one eats more to taste again what began but did not meet one’s fantasy. The impossible way to maintain a compelling fantasy is never-ending dynamism. The fantasy must never be revealed as already reached or completely out of reach. One must be kept always somewhat disappointed and somewhat hopeful. Among all the illimitable distractions of being, one sometimes strives to be entrapped briefly in such simplicity. Perhaps what I liked about the kale was its mixture of pain and pleasure, bitter and sweet. And maybe by singing such praises you will be convinced of what I am not.

1 bunch Italian kale 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil 1 teaspoon whole dill seeds 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper 1/2 teaspoon salt

Chop the bunch of kale every one inch, keeping the stemmy pieces separate from the leafy pieces. On medium heat, fry the dill seeds and black pepper in the sesame oil for about thirty seconds. Add stemmy kale pieces. Increase heat to medium-high. Fry for about four minutes, stirring every minute. Add the remaining kale and cover. Uncover and stir every two minutes, repeating this process four times. Remove from heat, serve immediately.

15 December 2010

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