Imagine, for a moment, that you are me. Your favorite green vegetable is kale. Back when you lived in Evanston, before all this Texas hoopla began, you used to find the most beautiful bunches of kale at your neighborhood Whole Foods or, even better, the Evanston farmers’ market. But everything changed when you left Evanston to head south, very far south, all the way to College Station, Texas. You find that the kale in College Station is usually wilted and limp, its dusky green faded to yellow at the outer edges of the leaves. This kale is too sad to be brought home. Without your kale connection, you feel distraught and useless.
One Friday night, after bravely walking under electrical wires upon which hundreds of blackbirds are perched, you enter HEB and find gorgeous, gorgeous curly kale for just two dollars a bunch. You gleefully pluck two bunches from the pile and saunter smugly to the cash register, ready to be reunited with your lost love.
Two bunches is a lot of kale, so you stuff them into the refrigerator and realize you have no idea what you want to make with your vegetal treasure. You steam a few leaves for dinner and chew each bite thoughtfully. You let the rest of the kale hang out in the fridge until late Sunday morning, when you finally know exactly what to do with that kale. Nothing says weekend lunch at home like a composed salad crowned with a tumble of hot, crispy oven-roasted potatoes. You get to work.
First the potatoes—a mixture of fingerlings and little red ones—get sliced into half-moons and tossed with a fragrant mixture of olive oil, Aleppo pepper, salt, and black pepper. Into the oven they go.
Then you turn your attention to the kale. Steaming is such a nice, easy way to relax kale into tender yet chewy mouthfuls, so you steam some more kale. The now-soft kale is plated.
You wander off to check your e-mail and glare at the boxes that are still not unpacked in your study—ahem, writing studio (that room has been renamed!). To punish the boxes for not unpacking themselves, you give them the silent treatment.
You wander back into the kitchen, breathing in the rich scent of roasted potatoes, now crispy and bronzed. Out of the oven they come. You slip them into place on their bed of kale.
Finally, to top this glorious plate of vegetables, you spoon some pinto beans and fling a handful of shredded cheese around the plate. You pour a glass of water, tuck a napkin into your lap, and taste the first bite.
The kale tastes like the color green: earthy, a tiny bit grassy, mellow. The potatoes are perfect: spicy, salty, crunchy-creamy. The pinto beans are little neutral morsels, more texture than flavor. And the cheese—a mild cheddar today—is lovely as usual.
A really great Sunday lunch is not complete without dessert, so you brew yourself a mug of herbal tea—mint or mandarin orange spice, your choice—and make a mixed dessert plate with a ramekin of still-warm homemade applesauce, topped with a few spoonfuls of cold, creamy yogurt, and an orange shortbread chocolate chip cookie. The applesauce has been coarsely mashed, so it still has chunks of tender apple amid a velvety puree, and the tart yogurt is the perfect foil for the sweet fruit. The cookie is soft and buttery, with big bittersweet chocolate chips studded within it. It’s a cookie that can hold its own against a dreamy composed kale salad and a ramekin of applesauce that contains all the sweetness of home within it.
A Sunday lunch like that, alone, would be enough to call it a perfect day. But in a state of food-induced joy, you catch the #12 bus to campus, find a library copy of Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones, and are instantly transported to writers’ paradise. The whole thing makes you so happy that after you get home and settle into the couch to read, you fall asleep for an hour, the fat raindrops from a sudden storm tapping a lullaby as you dream about fields of kale.