It didn’t used to be like this, Jojo tells me. Two years ago, when she and Remy first moved here, you couldn’t order a smoothie without getting laughed down by the bluff, paunch-sporting powerbrokers (and posers as such) of the DC area.
But now it’s different. Maybe it’s because Whole Foods moved in, or maybe it’s Michelle Obama’s doing. Whatever it is, the Eastern Market has taken an undeniable upturn, “local” is the adjective of choice on restaurant menus, and she no longer gets laughed at when she pulls out her juicer.
We had a gorgeous day yesterday, that not even the irrational foibles of the Metro could diminish. After eating breakfast accompanied by Fleetwood Mac, we braved said foibles (and the accusatory shouts of justifiably frustrated passengers) to get to Eastern Market.
I lived half an hour away from DC for four years, and had no idea this place was here. I made up for lost time, I hope–buying Asian pears, silver earrings, and a giant bag of Arcimboldo-worthy kale.
(I brought my Sungrown/Suzie’s Farm bag along, to assuage the nostalgic pang that such inevitably provokes.)
Jojo’s fridge is full, but she couldn’t resist buying pickles from the pickle guy. As we walked up to his booth, the guy just ahead of us was dancing on his toes, while Jason the proprietor poured pickle juice from a bigger tub into a smaller one.
“I’m getting back to my fighting weight!” the customer declaimed.
“Who are you going to fight?” I ask.
He explained that it was a rhetorical statement–that pickle juice is enormously healthy, and drinking it is a big boost to getting in shape. Before I could even raise an eyebrow to manifest my skepticism, he took the smaller tub that Jason gave him and chugged it through pursed lips.
Pickle juice, Jason explains, is a natural electrolyte, much more effective than Gatorade. He saves the juice from his best-selling kosher dills to supply the DC rowing team, who use it against muscle cramps in their legs. It’s funny, he says, to hear parents complaining about their kids drinking pickle juice–those kids apparently know, even if they don’t know they know.
It’s also, he says, a great chaser for whiskey–cleans the alcoholic taste right out. I restrain my expression (I hope) of horror; my research later unearths a New Yorker article from three years ago that proves this is, indeed a thing. It’s called a pickleback shot.
So this morning, we tore up the kale and while Jojo juiced the stems, I massaged olive oil, lemon juice, pink salt and cayenne pepper into the leaves. I can’t deny it–I like playing with food with my hands, and this is much more effective for thick, leathery brassica leaves.
We threw back the kale juice, chased it with like four times as much water (while we talk big game, our stomachs are delicate), and ate our greens with avocado and lemon tahini from Wisteria Garden.
And to be perfectly honest, the kale juice was kind of gnar.
But the salad…that’s another matter.
The World’s Most Self-Righteous Kale Salad
Find the biggest, greenest, leatheriest bunch of locally grown kale money can buy. Extra points if you buy it from a farmers’ market instead of Whole Foods.
Wash it and tear up the leaves into a bowl.
Juice one whole lemon into a bowl; add an equal amount of extra-virgin olive oil, a teaspoon or more of pink salt, and a dash of cayenne pepper. (Go easy on the pepper…it will make its presence known.) Dump it all over the kale, take off any rings you might be wearing, and start rubbing it into the kale leaves. If you’re confused as to what this means, plant your hands in the bowl, close your fists around as much of the leaves as you can, and massage it as slowly and mindfully as if it were Hugh Jackman’s shoulders, instead.
When the leaves are shiny and slick all over, sprinkle some more salt on top (taste it first, just to make sure it needs it) and let the leaves rest for about 15 minutes. The salt and lemon will be breaking it down–the longer you leave it, the more tender it will be.
When you’re ready, cut up some avocado or sprinkle some nutritional yeast on top. Then eat it, also slowly and mindfully, with gratitude and love in your heart. Otherwise all the nutrition is nullified and you might as well have had a hoagie.