I have a fierce reading addiction, so when my friend Kristen Beddard came out with her new memoir on two of my favorite topics, kale and Paris, I had to get my copy. Bonjour Kale is ideal for your summer reading list and anyone who loves food, adventure, and travel will crush on this fun read. Check out my interview with her to get an appetizing bite of her story.
JI: How did you come to live in Paris?
KB: My husband and I moved to Paris in 2011 for his job. I was never a Francophile growing up but was really excited at the opportunity to live in a new country, experience a new culture (and their wine, bread and cheese) and be able to travel more.
JI:What were some of the most surprisingly (fun or difficult) experiences you had there with food?
KB:By far the most fun experience has been the constant exploration of the outdoor markets. On almost any given day, I have open air markets (not all with local producers) only a few blocks from our apartment in the 17th arrondissement. Five years later, I still marvel at the availability of gorgeous seafood like langoustines, all different sizes of shrimp and prawns, mussels, oysters and whole fish with the fish monger will freshly prepare. It makes cooking so much more fun.
JI:Sounds like you were really in the field to get kale out there. What prompted you to become a kale crusader?
KB: When I started the project it was only to find one farmer to grow kale for a small group of expats. I didn’t ever think it would evolve into something more or the “kale crusader” name from the New York Times article. I couldn’t find a job or kale and I thought why not mix the two to fill a gap on my resume. As I discuss in the book, kale was more than a trendy green but was actually a comfort food that reminded me of home and I knew going five years without eating it would be difficult. France had every other cabbage, so I hoped a farmer would be able to grow this one as well.
JI: Share some of the obstacles you had to face supporting one of your favorite foods (in fact the most nutritious veggie) in France, and supporting French farmers to grow and distribute this little known veggie.
KB: One fact that was very important for talking to farmers and those interested was that kale was not something new. I was not importing or bringing the vegetable but reintroducing it as a légume oublié or lost and forgotten vegetable. Touting kale as a superfood was not going to work with the French since they do not approach eating or ingredients in a superlative way. For them, food is an experience. Food is pleasure and not only how they can have shinier hair or thinner thighs. Once I realized this and embraced this part of their history, it became a lot easier.
This book is a memoir with recipes, I love that take on your experience living in Paris. How did this experience change you as a person, a cook, and a writer? BTW is this your first book? Pretty awesome if so!
Living in France has greatly changed me as a cook because of the inspiration from walking through the markets and taking the time to shop with intention. Most days – and because I have the time to do so – I go from shop to shop, picking up vegetables at one shop, cheese from the next, wine from another and so on. It makes the entire process of cooking more holistic. I still have a lot to learn in the kitchen but find living here to be a great teacher.
JI: What advice would you give to young foodies, farmers, and environmentalist who want to follow in your footsteps?
KB: Network! The minute I started the project, I knew that I needed to meet as many people as possible who might be able to help me or might know someone else that could help me. Not only did I build a support network for the project but I also built a great group of friends and acquaintances that made Paris feel more like home.