Back in college, I waited tables at a chain restaurant called Bennigan’s, which prided itself on the “eye appeal” of its food.
The secret? We put some half-wilted kale on virtually every plate leaving the kitchen. Because I inevitably forgot to add the kale garnish – or couldn’t find the right-size sprig to adorn some poor schlub’s Monte Cristo sandwich – I came to despise this leafy green.
You can imagine my horror 20 years later when kale suddenly became a culinary thing.
Kale is everywhere in 2019: salads, smoothies, juices, powder, chips. Hating kale has become a full-time job because marketers and tastemakers have branded this tasteless crap a “superfood,” allegedly capable of curing disease and making us all live to be 104 years old while still running the 40-yard dash with the speed of an NFL wide receiver.
At a salad bar this week, I literally couldn’t locate a shred of real lettuce. There was only kale.
As I pondered launching a rebellion, a thought occurred to me: Perhaps medical science might come to the rescue? And it did.
See, one of the great things about living in the 21st century – besides the disappearance of Bennigan’s – is that researchers spend time and taxpayer cash studying literally everything. And, given the nature of science, all these conflicting studies seem to lead to one conclusion.
Everything is simultaneously good for us and bad for us.
Sure, a single cup of kale contains 200 percent of your recommended daily allowance of Vitamin A. But you know what else kale contains? Pesticides.
A study by The Environmental Working Group ranks kale third on their Dirty Dozen list for pesticide contamination.
As they explained it quoting recent federal agricultural statistics, “more than 92 percent of conventionally grown kale samples had at least two or more pesticide residues. Some samples contained residues from as many as 18 different pesticides.”
Screw kale then. And screw red wine, too.
Whenever I eat out with friends lately, someone raves about “dark oak accents” or some such nonsense.
My new response: “I’ll pass. I just read a new study in the August journal BMC Public Health. Did you know drinking a bottle of wine per week increases your cancer risk? Sad, but true. Researchers say a bottle of wine weekly is the equivalent of a guy smoking five cigarettes a week, or 10 cigarettes if you’re a female.”
I’m also taking a break from the gym, thanks to the recently published study, “The Emergence of Exercise Addiction, Body Dysmorphic Disorder, and Other Image-related Psychopathological Correlates in Fitness Settings.” The conclusion after studying 1,711 gym users across Europe?
“We found 11.7 percent of the exercising population are at risk of exercise addiction.”
Fortunately, not all the research news is bad. It turns out pizza can be a useful motivational tool, according to research conducted by Duke University behavioral economist Dan Ariely, who studied workers at an Israeli semiconductor factory.
Ariely offered different motivational rewards for a productive work week – including $30 cash, compliments and free pizza. Workers offered the pizza saw their productivity jump 6.7 percent on Day One. That beat workers who chose sweet praise (a 6.6 percent spike) and cold cash (4.9 percent).
The interesting part of the study? While pizza and compliments increased productivity over the course of the week, the offer of a modest cash reward actually hurt weekly productivity.
If the editors are reading this, I’m happy to take payment this week in large pies. With extra pepperoni, please.
And for heaven’s sake, absolutely no kale at all. I’ve read how that stuff can kill you.
David Leibowitz has called the Valley home since 1995. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.