Bok Choy and Collards and Kale, Oh My!

by Carol Hess on May 23, 2011

Today I felt like Dorothy in the Land of Oz, only I was Carol in the Land of Leafy Greens.  And the wizard behind the curtain – or in this case the stove – was a lovely woman by the name of Meg Wolff

Meg has become quite the celebrity, and here in Maine we are very proud of our local girl.  She is a two-time cancer survivor (bone and breast) whose doctors more or less gave up on her 12 years ago.  And here she is today, the picture of health and maintaining a schedule that would fell a woman half her age with two good legs.  (Meg’s left leg was amputated due to cancer, and she wears a prosthesis.)  

Meg has written several books, travels extensively spreading the word about the benefits of a plant-based diet, demonstrates healthy cooking recipes and techniques in person and on television, is featured in Kathy Freston’s book Veganist, and writes articles for The Huffington Post.  (I’m sure I’ve forgotten something!) 

Turning Lemons into Lemonade

Meg credits her macrobiotic diet and positive attitude with the miracle of her survival and the well-being she enjoys.  Despite the rigorous demands of her life and the challenges of navigating with a prosthetic leg, the only time I’ve ever seen Meg’s very large smile falter was today when her table-top gas stove caught something on fire.  Meg is the poster child for turning lemons into lemonade.  And her message is an inspiration and source of hope to all of us affected by cancer. 

Today Meg was talking about bok choy and collards and kale – oh my!  And when Meg talks, she cooks.  And when she cooks, you eat.  Now I happen to be familiar with bok choy, so it’s not that much of a stretch for me to eat it, even at 10:30 in the morning. 

I did, however, decline the barley tea.  Yuck!  Okay, I’ve got to confess that I’ve never tasted barley tea, but it sounds pretty awful, don’t you think?  However, most of the audience partook of this strange concoction.  I didn’t hear much oohing and aahing though, even from the diehards in the audience. 

Walking Advertisements

And there certainly were plenty of diehards.  There is a group of women who show up wherever and whenever Meg shows up.  Not only are they enthusiastic supporters of the plant-based way of life, they are also darned good walking advertisements for it.  I don’t remember the last time I saw such a healthy, vibrant, slim group of fifty-somethings, even though many of them are cancer survivors or currently undergoing treatment for cancer.

After our up close and personal encounter with bok choy, we moved on to kale.  My enthusiasm dwindled significantly.  The only way I’ve managed to wedge kale into my diet so far is by juicing it, and the experiment was a great success.  

Not only did the juice taste good, I felt like I was drinking liquid energy.  And the head cold that had been plaguing me for over a week was gone the next day.  (See “Delicious Green Lemonade” in the Recipes category.)  

My encounter with kale today was not quite so successful.  Meg and the diehards were smacking their lips over the plain steamed kale.  I was not.  No doubt my taste buds are still somewhat deadened because I haven’t totally weaned myself from sugar.  Did you know taste buds get numbed from sugar?  Neither did I. 

Miracle Food

Kale is one of those miracle foods, especially if you are a cancer survivor and want to stay as healthy as possible.  It does all sorts of incredible things to and for the body that have been scientifically documented.  

Meg is such a believer in kale that she eats it three times a day.  She cooks a big pot of it in the morning and just lets it sit on the stove all day so she can easily add kale to her lunch and dinner or for a snack.  (A snack?  You’ve got to be kidding me!) 

She even has a kale challenge in her cookbook, “A Life in Balance: Delicious, Plant-Based Recipes for Optimal Health,“  where she suggests eating kale at least once a day for seven days in a row.  (Does juicing it count, Meg?) 

From kale we moved on to collards.  Only myself and a few other people in the audience had never tasted collards before.  Considering I come from a semi-southern family (Baltimore, Maryland) and also lived in Charleston, South Carolina for a couple of years, it is somewhat surprising I’ve never eaten collards.  But there is nothing about the slimy grayish green sludge I’ve seen in restaurants and on tv cooking shows that has convinced me to try it, not even knowing it is cooked in bacon grease with lots of onions. 

Twiggy and Yours Truly

Meg’s collards no more resembled those slimy gray-green collards I’d seen than fashion model Twiggy resembles yours truly.  (Although I bet she wishes she did! :-))  They were still slightly crisp, a beautiful and appetizing bright green, and one of the best things I’ve put in my mouth in a long time.  The chopped almonds on top were like icing on the cake.  (Oops!  Is it blasphemous to talk about cake and collards in the same paragraph?) 

Yes, I’ve put the collards recipe on the blog too.  Look for “Meg Wolff’s Tasty Collards.” 

I picked up all sorts of other helpful tips from my morning spent with Meg and her tribe.

What two ingredients make up the perfect protein?  Answer:  rice and beans.

What can you cook with your beans so you don’t – ahem – chase your family out of the house with your flatulence?  Answer:  kombu.

What veggie can make you sick if it isn’t cooked properly?  Answer:  fiddleheads.

Leafy Greens Land

Perfect protein?  Kombu?  Fiddleheads?  I feel like I’ve just crossed the border into a foreign country and don’t speak the lingo.  But one thing’s for sure.  The people who live here in Leafy Greens Land are very nice and more than willing to introduce you to their strange customs and language.

Thanks, Meg and Meg’s tribe, for a very informative (and tasty) morning.  I can’t wait to see what’s on the menu next time!

Are you a stranger to Leafy Greens Land or a citizen?  Are you transitioning to a different way of eating?  A different relationship to food?  Tell us about it.

by Carol Hess

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