The Kale Project

by Meredith Mullins on April 24, 2014

The Kale Project leader, Kristen Beddard, with a kale smoothie, part of her life-changing experiences in Paris (Photo © Meredith Mullins)

Kristen Beddard, creator of The Kale Project, toasts her new life in Paris.
© Meredith Mullins

Life-Changing Experiences in Paris with a Leafy Green Vegetable

This could be a story about many things.

  •  a crusader
  • an expat trying to feel at home in a new country
  • inspiration for healthy eating
  • how to awaken an interest for something lost and forgotten
  • persistence
  • persuasiveness
  • success against challenging odds
  • the ability to see a problem and create a project to fix it
  • life-changing experiences

Or, this could just be a story about kale.

A kale leaf, part of Kristen Beddard's life-changing experiences with The Kale Project in Paris

In France, kale was a forgotten vegetable.
© bhofack2/iStock

A Tale of Kale: The Story of a Crusade

In fact, this story is about all these things, punctuated by “Oh, I see” moments of the best kind.

The two main characters are kale and a young American woman, Kristen, in Paris. Both have superpowers.

Kristen Beddard is a kale crusader. America embraced kale years ago, and even overmarketed it into a hashtag. It is the leafy green vegetable that has it all (the food you should probably vote to have with you on a desert island).

However, France needed a nudge. Kale was a légume oublié, a forgotten vegetable.

A nutritious staple in the Middle Ages in Europe and even in WW II in the UK, kale was unknown to most contemporary French farmers and consumers. They hadn’t ever seen it. It just didn’t exist in the French culinary world of the 21st century.

Kristen Beddard with a kale salad, part of her life-changing experiences with The Kale Project in Paris (Photo © Meredith Mullins)

A destiny of kale
© Meredith Mullins

A Leafy-Green Destiny

Enter Kristen—to the rescue.

Destiny? Perhaps.

In the third grade, the students in her class were asked by the teacher to associate the first letter of their name with something that was meaningful to them.

Kristen did not hesitate. “My name is Kristen and I like kale.”

Although most of the kids in class had no idea what kale was, Kristen had been raised with it . . . and many other organic foods. Home was healthy—a place where watermelon was dessert, carob cake was for special occasions, and the words Ding Dong could never be uttered.

“My mom believed in nourishing food,” Kristen says. When I was sick, she fed me brown rice, miso soup, and kale. I associate these things with home.”

kale soup, part of Kristen Beddard's life-changing experiences in Paris with the Kale Project

Nourishing soup, with kale at its center
© Sage Elyse/iStock

Making Paris a Home

Kristen arrived in Paris two years ago when her husband’s job brought them to France. As with all new expat arrivals, she knew it was important to find a raison d’être, a meaningful plan to pass the time and a way to feel at home in new surroundings.

For Kristen, kale served both purposes. It grounded her with her organic past and made her think of home, and it provided a challenge for her present and future.

She had a mission. She would reintroduce kale to Paris. The Kale Project was born.

All Things Start with a Seed

seed packet for The Kale Project, part of Kristen Beddard's life changing experiences in Paris

The first Kale Project seed packet

The first step was to convince farmers to grow this lovely leafy green. Like Johnny Appleseed, she gave seed packets to likely candidates and provided (in her words) a “wholesome, earthy, and fresh” taste of kale to tempt producers and consumers.

A former NY ad account manager, Kristen knew how to sell. She knew the kale headlines in the U.S. were a plus (kale was trending). She knew its nutrition value was unsurpassed (protein, calcium, vitamins A and C, wrapped up in just a few calories). She knew, instinctively, “if you grow it, they will come.”

She convinced several farmers to give it a try.

A kale field, part of The Kale Project in Paris and the life-changing experiences of Kristen Beddard

Kale . . . as far as the eye can see
© Tom Brakefield/Stockbyte

On the Trail of Kale

The next step was to gain the attention of restaurants and boutiques. She talked with chefs. She organized several kale events in Paris to make kale a topic of conversation in the community.

She even briefly pursued being a kale chef, bringing huge bags full of kale from Normandy on the train and turning her kitchen into a production haven for kale chips, kale pesto, and kale salads.

kale chips, part of Kristen Beddard's life changing experiences with The Kale Project in Paris

Kale Chips (They’re Addictive!)
© bhofack2/iStock

(This was a period of frustration for her husband, since the refrigerator full of kale was designated for her clients and not for their own dinner. Kale, kale everywhere, but not a leaf to spare.)

Her passion and drive had results. She began to note on a Google map on The Kale Project website the places where kale was appearing—in markets and in restaurants. The kale network grew.

Jay with kale leaves, the result of the successful Kale Project in Paris and the life-changing experiences of Kristen Beddard (Photo © Meredith Mullins)

Jay, of Cantine California in Paris, makes a mean green kale juice, chock full of kale plus apples, cucumber, and kiwi.
© Meredith Mullins

New Horizons

Now that kale sightings in Paris are more frequent and The Kale Project could be considered a success, what’s next for Kristen?

She has many projects that keep her entrepreneurial spirit busy, including helping people in the south of France and other European countries bring kale to their farms, markets, and restaurants.

close up of kale leaf, fresh from the fields, a goal of Kristen Beddard's life changing experiences related to The Kale Project in Paris

Local produce: fresh from field to market
© Lookamotive/iStock

Like any good environmentalist and champion of local produce, she would like kale to be planted wherever it can grow, so it travels only short distances from field to market.

She will always be a kale supporter. However, she did mention that it’s been hard to find dandelion and mustard greens in Paris. Is there a new movement in the making? Time will tell.

What we do know is that we need more crusaders like Kristen. One person CAN make a difference.

These are the life-changing experiences that make the world a better place.

 

Ready for some interesting kale in your life? OIC offers this download of great kale recipes by Kristen Beddard:

 

For more about Kristen and The Kale Project, take a look at this film made for Dark Rye. If video does not display, watch it here.

If you’ve always wanted to know more about how to massage kale (who hasn’t?), check out this massage video. If video does not display, watch it here.

 

Comment on this post below, or inspire insight with your own OIC Moment here.

 
Comments:

10 thoughts on “The Kale Project

    • Hi Dennis,
      Thank you for reading the story on Kristen … and for following the OIC blog. If you have questions for Kristen, you can contact her directly at The Kale Project.

      http://thekaleproject.com

      All the best,

      Meredith
      OIC Writer

  1. Hi, Kristen. Found your site from French Word A Day blogger Kristin Espinasse, another American ex-pat married to a Frenchman, whose blog is amazing! Anyway, I completely enjoyed your story and think The Kale Project is a wondrous thing you’ve done/are doing! I have always loved eating Kale, but have now become very addicted to it because I recently discovered the joys of juicing! Mmmm…. Keep up the good work! I could see your life story being made into a full-length movie! (think Julie & Julia…) hehe

    • Hi Alisa,
      Thank you for your comments about Kristen and kale. I’m happy you enjoyed our OIC story on her great work. I will pass along your compliments. She is a great crusader … and makes us all want to eat more kale.

      And I thank Kristi Espinasse, too, for passing along our story on French Word a Day. I’ve been a fan of her blog for many many years.

      We hope you continue to read the OIC blog.

      With best wishes,

      Meredith
      OIC Moments

  2. Well this brings back memories for me !! As a little girl “Nanny Bee”,as she was known, she was my father’s nanny when he was little, & she knew all our favourite foods .Whenever we visited her in her cottage she would cook some kale fro me specially, because I loved it . Thanks for the memory . As I now live in the South of France I have never seen it down here .

    • Hi Audrey,

      Thank you for your comments. Kale seems to bring up wonderful memories for some folks.

      Perhaps you will become the new kale ambassador for the south of France? There’s always room for more crusaders.

      All the best,

      Meredith

  3. Hi Marie,
    Thank you for your comment . . . and the additional information. Kale, like many things, is good in moderation and with full knowledge of the value and potential risks.

    We join you in congratulating Kristen. She kept her eye on the goal and never wavered. The best kind of crusader!

    With best wishes,

    Meredith

  4. My husband and I became kale enthusiasts until we learned that kale is also high in Vitamin K and shouldn’t be consumed in large quantities by people, like my husband, who are on blood thinners.

    However, we still enjoy kale on a limited basis because it is so
    beneficial in every other way.

    Congratulations to Kristen for cracking into the food sensibility of
    the French.

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