June 12, 2017

Book Review: Bonjour Kale by Kristen Beddard

A memoir of love, life, and recipes from the woman who brought kale to the City of Light

The story of how one expat woman left her beloved behind when she moved to France—her beloved kale, that is. Unable to find le chou kale anywhere upon moving to the City of Light with her new husband, and despite not really speaking French, Kristen Beddard launched a crusade to single-handedly bring kale to the country of croissants and cheese. Infused with Kristen’s recipes and some from French chefs, big and small (including Michelin star chef Alain Passard) Bonjour Kale is a humorous, heartfelt memoir of how Kristen, kale, and France collide.

While no one could accuse me of being a passionate kale lover, I am drawn to Parisian memoirs. And this one stands apart from the rest simply because it is about kale. But don’t worry, even though the theme is about one American woman’s search for kale in Paris, it isn’t just about the leafy vegetable. Kale is a metaphor for Beddard’s adjustment to French life and culture.  The picture she paints of her early months is bleak and discouraging, a small part of which is the fact that she has trouble finding ingredients commonplace in New York, including kale. Jobless and directionless, Beddard decides to bring kale to Paris by convincing local farmers to start growing the leafy green and restaurants and locals to buy it.  Beddard’s experiences as a fish out of water are relatable and I got caught up in the momentum of her passion project.

Recipes with a healthy bent (some without a whit of kale) end every chapter.  My favorite one is easy and versatile.  Called Sharzie’s Secret Sauce (after her mom), I use it a couple of times a week as a salad dressing, drizzled over chicken or vegetables.

Sharzie’s Secret Sauce


3/8 cup or 6 tablespoons olive oil
3 tbsp Umeboshi* vinegar
1 teaspoon dill

Combine the olive oil and vinegar in a medium-size jar.  Sprinkle the dill into the jar, covering the liquid mixture. Shake vigorously.  Taste.  If desired, add more dill.  Dressing will keep for 2-3 weeks.

*I’ve made variations of this sauce by substituting white wine vinegar and adding some salt and a squeeze of lemon. 

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