I had just woken from a two hour unplanned nap, still jet lagged, four days after my return to Tel-Aviv from Boulder, Colorado.
The potluck dinner I was invited to was only three hours away—barely enough to get ready and prepare the kale chips I’d learned to make while I was in Boulder.
The problem was—I still did not have kale.
I usually get kale with my weekly fruits and veggies order from the local farmer. But with my mind still in the West Coast, I missed the due date for that week’s order.
Finding kale in Tel-Aviv is like finding good hummus in Colorado—not an easy task. My friend told me that Super Baba (the name represents the provincial nature of the place) was selling kale. I crossed my fingers, hoping he was right.
With my eyes still half closed, I rushed down to the street. The unbearable August humidity made me heavier than I already was. The street was covered with a sticky-stinky rug of ficus fruits that stuck under my shoes and asked to glue me to the ground.
I wanted to be in Boulder.
Tel-Aviv is a charming place, don’t get me wrong. It has an amazing night life, great food and a beautiful beach. Some say it has the best weather in the world. But all I could see now was the third world city hiding behind the charm—the peeling, dirty walls with old, dripping ACs sticking out of them, wrapped in a collection of messy wires and cables.
Super Baba used to be one big supermarket owned by two brothers.
A few years ago, the brothers had a huge fight and split the place into two smaller supermarkets. Go figure. I entered the one which I thought was the better one and roamed for a while without being able to find any clue to where the kale might be.
I approached the cashier who seemed to be the only present employee. She had shabby dyed blond hair, weary facial skin and gloomy eyes. I asked her in my American polite manner if she could please tell me where the kale was. Being used to the kind service of the Whole Foods staff, I expected her to come and show me the way with a smile.
The woman did not make any attempt to move from her chair.
“Last aisle, on the left side”, she said in a hoarse voice, angry for being disturbed and not even making eye contact with me.
Why do I have to deal with such unpleasantness? Why is it so hard to just be nice in this country? Why is everyone so aggressive and rude? How will there ever be peace if this is how people behave here?
These thought were racing through my head while I was trying to guess which aisle was the first and which was the last. Since the aisles were not numbered, I just checked them both thoroughly. There was no sign of the curly green leaves.
When I got back to the cashier, she got really upset:
“What’s not to understand? My instructions were very clear! I told you, last aisle to the left!”
I wanted to sit on the floor and cry like a little child, demanding to be returned immediately to the place where people were kind.
The wise words of my spiritual teachers brought me back to my senses. Suffering is caused not by the circumstances, but by our reaction to them. I had to accept the situation without rejecting it. I had to develop compassion towards this woman.
She was just a human being who wanted to be happy.
It was apparent she’d had a rough life. But this woman represented everything I did not like about Israel. All of my spiritual practices could not take away the frustration I felt for having to live in this no-kale land, just because I was born here.
Reluctantly, the cashier got up from her chair and made few steps towards what I knew now was the last aisle. I dragged my legs behind her.
“Here it is.”
She waved her hand to a certain part of the shelf. I was completely puzzled—there was nothing that looked like kale there. I was looking at her hopelessly.
She kept on pointing at the place where all the bug killers were. In Israel, the bug killers are called K100, K200, K300 etc. Now, I got it.
“I am not looking for K. I am looking for kale.”
I tried to be as clear as I could. The cashier looked at me as if I came from another planet. She had no idea what I was talking about.
The saga ended. I went to the other Super Baba next door and found the kale.
The chips came out delicious. Everyone loved them. But I was totally shocked to discover that my own friends did not know what kale was. I was in my homeland, but away from my people—the people who knew the taste of kale, spirulina and maca powder, the people who compost and buy local and organic.
I was away from my kale tribe and had to start accepting this reality.
Luckily, everything is impermanent.
It took me two more weeks to start feeling happy and at home just where I was.
And this is the kale chips recipe that I learned from Rachelle, a beautiful soul and the owner of Satya Yoga Sutton.
First of all, it is important to wash the leaves and dry them well. After they are dry, remove the ribs from the kale with a knife and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces with your hands.
Then massage the kale leaves with olive oil so that all the leaves are well taken care of and look fresh and bright. The secret of making the chips delicious is putting love into the kale leaves while you massage them.
Heat the oven to around 250° to 350°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Coat a baking sheet with a thin layer of olive oil; set aside.
Mix pine nuts, olive oil, cumin powder, salt and a little bit of chili powder in a food processor, until it becomes a relatively thick and tasty sauce. I don’t know the exact quantities—you’ll have to be intuitive about it.
Lay the leaves on the baking tray and gently pour the sauce on the leaves, trying to apply an even quantity on all of them. They should be well covered with sauce.
Bake until the kale starts feeling crispy enough.
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Ed: Catherine Monkman