Kale Field

June 5, 2016

Well I promise to get back to the serious talk about food waste sometime, really, I do. John Zilmer’s comment to the first blog on food waste has already made a few points I thought that I might get around to sooner or later, so if you are itching for something more pensive I’d recommend reading that. As for me, I’ve spent the last couple of weeks in South Georgia where the temperatures have gradually climbed into the upper nineties. I’m just not in a pensive mood as I sit down to write this.

And speaking of South Georgia, I am very happy to report making the acquaintance of Philip Lumpkin who endorsed my own view of one of the great food waste phenomena of the 21st century. To wit: kale. We were sitting around chatting with Philip about all manner of food related things, explaining to him how the Thornapple CSA worked up in Michigan and enjoying some very, very fine peaches that had been dropped off by one of his friends, reputedly the largest peach grower in Georgia. The peaches, by the way, were sensational despite being a tad early in the season for peaches. We had bought some rather puny samples from some guy in a truck parked under a shade tree outside the K-Mart store in Tifton, but even after four or five days of seasoning they had not ripened to the point of edibility. I doubt they ever will. Just picked too early for hawking to the gullible Yankee tourists who had stopped at K-Mart on their cruise up and down I-75.

Not that we had been cruising up and down I-75 our own selves. As I said already, we’ve been here for a couple of weeks (well actually it’s just ten or eleven days if you want to get technical—we were in Alabama for three days before we got to Georgia). Aside from the peaches we got from that guy in front of K-Mart, it’s been good eatin’. Not only were there some fine peaches at Philip’s, there was good Carolina melon, fresh sweet corn and zucchini picked the same day from Chris Ponder’s fields, and a couple of stops at Fat Boy’s Homemade Barbecue in Sylvester. The pulled pork is just the way we expect it here in South Georgia and it comes with a tub of that yellowish (not yellow, just yellowish) sauce that they only seem to do in these parts of the country. It’s especially good slathered with coleslaw. And not only is the barbecue pretty damn good, you have the extra pleasure of getting it from a place named “Fat Boy’s”.

So there may be one or two readers of the Blog (I know. I should just stop there and put a period after that phrase.) who don’t appreciate the virtues of fried okra and other types of Southern cooking. If so, you may not catch the humor of Philip speculating that Chris had left a box of zucchini as some kind of cruel joke, because you would not know that Southern folk do not eat zucchini. “Those little yellow crooked-neck squash—we love ‘em. And we’ll eat that other kind of straight-necked yellow squash, but zucchini? We’ll grow it,” says Phillip, “and we’ll ship it up North, but we don’t have to eat it.”

Now truth to tell, I’m not really down with Philip on zucchini. We had two meals last week where zucchini featured heavily in the main dish. One was a casserole which I will not attempt to explain except to say that it also included potatoes. The other was a stir fry I cooked up myself with some Vidalia onions and the peppers and tomatoes that Chris brought by. The only things we needed to get down at the Piggly Wiggly were garlic and soy sauce. We did buy some peanut oil, but heck, we probably grew those peanuts right here on the farm! It is a sign of modernity that you can get soy sauce at the Piggly Wiggly in Sylvester, but you can.

However derisive Philip was of zucchini, it was nothing compared to the hilarity with which he regards the thought of eating kale. Here, I’m as Southern as the next fellow. Now as my Thornapple friends know, we get plenty of kale in our boxes, and most people seem to like it. It’s the signature food of the hipster generation, I’m told. But though we’ll eat collard greens or turnip greens or mustard greens, you are just not going to get Southern folk to eat kale. Or so Philip says. And I agree: a prime example of food waste if I ever saw one!

Paul B. Thompson is the W.K. Kellogg Professor of Agricultural, Food and Community Ethics at Michigan State University

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