Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Kale for Nerds, or:
Return of the NEEP!

Opa! It is my deepest pleasure to announce that  kale [kail], n.  was the Oxford English Dictionary Word of the Day last Tuesday, March 22, in the Year of Our Lord 2011. This delightfully stunning news comes through the wires to South America from our WV correspondent in New York, Mr. Cardoon O'Chickory, who you may recall provided us with our last big break from the OED, that venerable treasure trove of etymological lore, back in January, 2009 when the pale, mild neep climbed to its finest moment as Word of the Day.

Mr. O'Chickory (really just Chickory, but I like to add the O' as a little shamrock in his cap) writes:

Hi katrina, look at this! the OED comes up trumps again. I am going to start using the phrase "*to give one his kale through the reek"* from now on.

Note also that we come full circle with: *kale-turnip n. = kohlrabi*

I don't even know what that means. But it seems deeply pregnant, no? 

Too excited for words, I had to wait an entire week to process this, yes, deeply pregnant entry.

As mentioned above, it turns out that kale derives from cole, which is related to the German kohl for cabbage (all are from the Brassica family), and kohlrabi being a kind of German turnip, also known as kale-turnip, this, as our perspicacious correspondent points out, brings us full circle to NEEP, our most cherished word for the common turnip.

I want to know all about sea kale, keel to be found wild on Maritime rocks, all that gigantic colewort growing in kitchen gardens, and Scottish kale soup served with moldy bread and sour ale. The Scots seem to have been crazy about kale. You could give someone "his kale through the reek," really let 'em have it in olde timey Scotland (undoubtedly the best kale phrase of them all). But if I'm all about getting my kale in the good ol' U.S. of A., then that green's gonna go cha-ching like cheddar, like scrilla, and "You will get 111% on your kale in this fun-fest" called America, the promise goes.

For those of you vegetable nerds without proper access to the OED, I am pasting in the highlights. All ye who can gaine entrye to the OED, click here.

kale | kail, n.

Pronunciation:  /keɪl/ Sc./kel/
Forms:  α. ME cal, ME–18 cale, (ME–15 Sc. cail (OE, 15 call, 16 cayle), ME, 17– kale, (15–16 Sc. kaill), 16– Sc. kail. β. ME kelle, 15 kel, 15–16 kele, keel(e, 16 (Sc.) keil, 16–18 keal(e, 17 kell.
Etymology:  Northern form of cole n.1, q.v. The normal northern English spelling was cale (now rare), the Scots kaill, kail; the latter still common in Scots writers or with reference to Scotland, though kale is more frequent in general use. The β-forms are mainly southern spellings indicating the narrow Northern vowel.


 a. A generic name for various edible plants of the genus Brassica; cole, colewort, cabbage; spec. the variety with wrinkled leaves not forming a compact head ( B. oleracea acephala), borecole.

1699    M. Lister Journey to Paris (new ed.) 150   The Keel is to be found wild upon the Maritime Rocks. 

1814    Scott Waverley I. viii. 104   Gardens, or yards...stored with gigantic plants of kale or colewort. 

1861    G. H. Kingsley in F. Galton Vac. Tourists & Trav. 1860 148   When times were tolerably quiet, they...cultivated their oats and kail in peace.

b. With qualifying word: curled kale, curly kale, †frizzled kale, German kale, or green kale, the ordinary borecole, with green leaves, very much curled; †great kale, lang kale, Scotch kale, a variety of borecole with less wrinkled leaves, of a purplish colour; wild kale, Colewort. Also corn-kale, wild kale, Field-Mustard ( Sinapis arvensis); Indian kale (see quot. 1890). See also bow-kail n., , sea-kale n.field kale: see the first element. 


1673    D. Wedderburn Vocab. 18 (Jam.)   Brassica, great kail, unlocked. Brassica capitata alba, white locked kail. Brassica crispa, frizzled or curled kail. Brassica minor, smaller kail. 

1731–59    P. Miller Gardeners Dict. (ed. 7) ,   Brassica Siberica, Siberian Borecole, called by some Scotch Kale.


 a. Broth in which Scotch kale or cabbage forms a principal ingredient; hence Sc.water-kale, broth made without meat or fat. Broth or soup made with various kinds of vegetables.

a1480    Burlesque in Rel. Ant. I. 85   Ther whas rostyd bakon, moullyde brede, nw soure alle, Whettestons and fyre~brondys choppyde in kelle.

1642    Milton Apol. Smectymnuus in Wks. (1851) III. 277   When he brings in the messe with Keale, Beef, and Brewesse, what stomach in England could forbeare to call for flanks and briskets?

1816    Scott Black Dwarf i, in Tales of my Landlord 1st Ser. I. 31,   I will be back here to my kail against ane o'clock.
1858    E. B. Ramsay Reminisc. Sc. Life (1860) 1st Ser. v. 108   The old-fashioned easy way of asking a friend to dinner was to ask him if he would take his kail with the family.

b. Sc. Phrases: cauld kale het again, something stale served up again; e.g. an old sermon doing duty a second time. to give one his kale through the reek, to treat one in some unpleasant fashion, to let one ‘have it’.

1660    in J. Ramsay Scotl. & Scotsmen 18th Cent. (1888) II. 80   We will take cold kail het again tomorrow.

1816    Scott Old Mortality i, in Tales of my Landlord 1st Ser. III. 12   When my mother and him forgathered, they set till the sodgers, and I think they gae them their kale through the reek!

1823    J. Galt Entail III. xxx. 282   Theirs was a third marriage, a cauld-kail-het-again affair.

1840    C. Brontë Let. in E. C. Gaskell Life C. Brontë (1857) I. ix. 214   He would have given the Dissenters their kale through the reek—a Scotch proverb.


3. N. Amer. slang. Money.


1922    S. Lewis Babbitt xiii. 172   You will get 111% on your kale in this fun-fest.

1926    Flynn's 16 Jan. 638/1   The kale is cut up an th' biggest corner goes to th' brains.

1927    Daily Express 23 Sept. 1   Enough ‘kale’ (prize-fighters’ name for money) has been received‥to assure the promoters a profit of approximately £100,000.


And, for dessert, some choice compounds for you:


kale-bell n. the dinner-bell.

kale-brose n. oatmeal-brose made with the fat skimmings of meat-broth.

kale-gully n. a knife for cutting kale.

kale-runt n. [no further explanation given!]

kale-time n. dinner-time.

kale-turnip n. = kohlrabi n. ( Chambers's Encycl. 1890).

kale-wife n. a woman who sells kale or greens.


All right my lovelies, that's quite enough kale for one evening. This kale-wife bids you adieu on a balmy evening in Rio, where her hair is becoming a baroque piece of frizzled kale, or couve [koh-vee], as our lovely dark green is called in these parts.

Thursday, March 17, 2011


          Like Robinson Crusoe before Friday, 
          I make friends from materials 
          found in my New World.
          Unlike them,
          I have chosen 
          the terms of my exile.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Legumes Estranhos: Brazil Continued

Oh my Godgee (a friend's "Brazilian" way of saying "Oh my God."). It's been almost a month since the last WV post. A lot has happened. Incredibly rapid people's revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, disturbing conflicts in Libya, protests against the shameless Republican assault on workers' rights and non-corporate governance in Wisconsin and Michigan. A natural disaster in Japan spilling over the global consciousness in a chaotic flotsam of photographs that I'm finding nearly impossible to process adequately. How does one maintain a sense of what has happened, is happening, with so much information hitting at once?

And I moved to Brazil for the rest of the year.

I am still eating mostly vegetables. Weird ones. Meat slips in from time to time if it's in tiny bits tucked into the black bean soup that I was craving at the neighborhood bar one night. Or if it sneaks into the juice bar breaded pastry I thought had only manioc and cheese.

There's no Trader Joe's here but one can still get lazyman pre-cut veggies very easily. I picked up the above sacks of squash and shredded carrot with beet from one of the little stands that materializes on street corners most evenings. I am currently in Rio de Janeiro, far from Ipanema and the beach where I lived in 2003 to 2004, this time closer to the decayed nineteenth-century glories of the old city, in the Santa Teresa neighborhood, which Lonely Planet likes to claim is a Brazilian Montmartre. Sure, there are puppeteers and painters out in the street sipping tiny cups of cold beer on Sunday nights, and it's up in the hills with breathtaking views over the city (panorama of Guanabara Bay, piled brick shacks of the hillside favelas in the near distance), but it's its own thing... I try not to stub my sandal feet on the cobblestones on my way home, up up up past ivy-covered walls topped with broken glass in lieu of barbed wire and neighbors peeping down on me from fluorescent-lit rooms.

I visited the Glória neighborhood farmers' market just down the hill this past Sunday and have heard tell of an organic farmers' market close by. There are also versions of CSA (community-supported agriculture) produce boxes to be had in my neighborhood. I am still orienting myself to the lay of the land, but the organic & permaculture bug seems to have bitten here too, in a land saturated with soy and corn monoculture.

I have nothing too alien to present you with today, but I was quite pleased with this watercress bunch (agrião) I found--watercress being a much more proletarian, sturdier vegetable here than it is in the U.S., where we tend to associate it with lace gloves, doilies, and tea sandwiches (by "we" I mean me). I was also equally, if not more, pleased by my clever tactic of poking a hole in the midpoint of the carrot-beet-shred bag in order to dig my greedy monkey fingers into a balanced mix of Tang and picked-scab colors:

Here is the rainbow coalition salad I made, "the best greens I've seen in Brazil so far," exclaimed a visiting New York poet and fellow misteriosa ethnic question mark, whose Transcendent Brow says:
                                                    "my crush is on
                                                    your rosemary potato
                                                    offerings of candlelit
                                                    vigils for my grandparents . . . "

and whose "conscience is a cherry plum tomato / Amish radishes . . . "

Meep mop! That's a shout out to my cat Osiris, whom me olde veggie companion Erin is sweetly tending back in San Francisco. Old timer readers of WV may recall my brief 2008 foray into Legumes Estranhos, when I was in Rio for a research trip. More investigations to come...