Happy July, Happy Friday, Happy For The Love of Kale. If you did July 4th, I hope it was grand. My parents are in town and my husband and father actually went to the Bruce Springsteen concert in Paris. Nothing much better than listening to “Born in the USA” on the 4th of July! Next week I have some exciting updates to share with you all but in the meantime, I want to introduce Rebecca from Lafleur Verte. This girl is full of chia-seed infused energy and as she’s been in Paris for eight years, knows a lot of people who will help The Kale Project’s mission. You’ll be hearing a lot more about her as we work together on various things. So without further adieu, here is the green-loving, yogini-doing, French-speaking, lovely Rebecca.
“To quote the wisest amphibian I know, ‘It’s easy being green.'”
Describe what kale tastes like in one sentence.
“Whatever you want it to.” That may seem vague, but one of the things I love most about kale is its versatility. If you add a tahini miso dressing, it will tastes like a burst of Asia in your mouth. If you douse it in avocado and healthy oils, it will be creamy, delicious comfort food. Kale is the vegetable world’s greatest actor – it takes on a different role depending on how you dress it up.
When did you first try kale? How did you try it? What did you think?
You always remember your first time. I lost my kale virginity around a year ago on a summer visit to NJ. I had been reading several healthy cooking blogs, and since most of the English-language ones I like are based in the US or Canada, they all had so many recipes involving kale. Plus, every article I read pontificated on the health benefits of the wonder green, so I knew I had to try it.
My first kale adventure involved a simple salad from My New Roots’ superstar blogger Sarah Britton. It’s simply kale with olive oil and/or hemp oil, lemon and salt and some avocado, tomato and cayenne pepper. Her instructions were to “massage” the kale. I remember being in our kitchen and my mother walking downstairs and I said: “I can’t talk to you. I’m giving my kale a massage.” True story. After that, I was hooked. It’s my favorite go-to kale salad to this day.
When you had access to kale, what was your favorite way to cook with it?
I actually prefer to UNcook with kale. While cooked kale is great and I did often steam it and add to dishes, I prefer it in its raw form whether massaged with a creamy dressing or thrown into smoothies.
Tell me about your kale experience in Paris?
After google-ing kale 460 times only to discover that it’s French name is “le chou frisée” when, in fact, le chou frisée is not, in fact, kale and getting strange looks when I tried to describe it to the farmers I’ve met and also failing in an attempt to smuggle bags full of it in my suitcase across the French border, I had given up on my kale quest… until The Kale Project came along that is! I’ve never seen kale in any organic stores or markets or restaurants in Paris in eight years and most farmers look at me like I have twelve heads when I bring it up.
When did Lafleur Verte start?
Lafleur Verte, which means Green Flower in French, has been sprouting for some time now. I’d been gradually getting into healthy cooking for the past couple of years, then I had some terrible health problems this year and really had to focus on cooking at home. I wanted to share the knowledge that I accumulated while doing so much research, reading so many books and seeing so many doctors and health professionals with other people.
Why did you choose the name Lafleur Verte?
I moved to Paris around eight years ago and, since my last name is Leffler, everyone started to call me “Lafleur” with a French accent. “La Fleur” in French literally means “The Flower.” I have a blog called Lafleur de Paris so when I was thinking of a name for my new French-language blog all about a green lifestyle, The Green Flower, aka Lafleur Verte was born!
What are you initial aims/goals? Where do you see the endeavor going?
There are so many fresh cooking blogs and websites in the US, but not much here, even though nutrition and healthy lifestyle are gaining in popularity in France. I want to show that eating well doesn’t have to be daunting, that it’s possible to make healthy meals that are quick, easy, affordable and, most importantly, delicious! Most of my friends are like me – they want to eat well, but don’t want to spend a lot of money and often get home late at night and don’t have hours to slave over the stove. Plus, since I love my work on TV, this allows me to combine everything together with recipe videos. When I was told I had to eat a veggie-centric, gluten-free and dairy-free diet in order to heal, I thought “sacré bleu! What will I eat?” and, in fact, there are so many things! I discover more every day. Living in the capital of le fromage and la baguette isn’t easy, but I hope that, through this site, and the support of other people passionate about health, the natural foods movement that is taking over America at the moment will find its way across the Atlantic and become more mainstream.
What do you think is the best market in Paris?
I adore the organic market on the Boulevard Raspail on Sundays. I know it’s such a cliché, but I adore it. It’s my weekly tradition. Sure, the produce is better than in the organic food stores across the city since it comes fresh from farms all over the country. However, what I really love about the Raspail market is the sense of community. The same vendors wake up early every weekend and brave inclimate weather on occasion to greet their loyal customers every week. All of them take their jobs very seriously, which I think is very typically French. I remember once asking why the eggs from one vendor were so delicious and she explained that it’s because the chickens are happy and they raise them with music, then went on to show me a photo album with photos only of … pigs! And when I am sick of winter vegetables and dying for a tomato in early Spring, the vendors at my favorite vegetable stand respond in horror and strongly counsel me to wait until they are in peak season. There’s even a “black market” taking place there – the vendors will keep certain produce of which they don’t have large stocks on the side for frequent customers. It’s a whole universe where I discover new things – and new vegetables! – every time. Plus, it’s always fun to run into Juliette Binoche or Gerard Depardieu while I’m choosing my head of broccoli. I highly recommend “Mr. Blueberry” who, every summer, sets up an ephemeral stand with the best blueberries in the WORLD (yes, even better than New Jersey) from St. Exupéry called Les Délices du Petit Prince. I always head to Le Coin Bio with all Demeter produce since they grow a lot of their fare themselves and it’s easy to spot the difference. And a trip to Raspail wouldn’t be complete without a fresh wheatgrass shot and some sprouts from Hermione. [Hint, Hint: Madame Mustard!]
What do you think of the natural food scene in Paris?
In fact, there is no “natural food scene” in Paris. Or at least, not like the natural food scene in say, California or New York. I’d say there are natural food sceneS (plural) in Paris and what I am hoping is that soon they will merge to form a more cohesive unit supporting healthy eating. There are chains of organic shops across the city – Naturalia, Biocoop, La Vie Claire, Bio Generation, etc., and other smaller ones like Biomoi for example. Many Parisians visit frequently and are really starting to focus on buying more organic foods. There are even organic sections of Monoprix supermarket now. The outdoor markets at Raspail, Batignolles, Enfants Rouge and Aligre are always bustling. However, eating a more plant-based diet is still looked down upon here and considered to be extreme or strange whereas in places like NYC or California, it’s very mainstream, even “cool” and trendy. Women walk to work carrying a bottle of juice from Organic Avenue and pack quinoa salads to eat at their desks at lunch and restaurant menus have gluten-free and vegan options. In Paris, juices are available at a few tiny select places, eating lunch at one’s desk is still considered barbaric and I can’t even describe the look of horror on the faces of waiters or chefs if I ask if there are gluten or dairy-free options available. There is a growing population of raw foodies in Paris, but I find that most of them are quite militant in their approach and aren’t very practical or open-minded, but I hope this will all change, as the French say, “peu à peu” (little by little).
Merci Rebecca. The two of us are actually going to be in New York City at the same time and will be eating our way through each kale dish one by one and I know Rebecca will be a consistent contributor to fantastic kale/greens recipes!