The New York Times: New Orleans doesn't have kale

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Kale, a leafy green that does not exist in New Orleans. - CREATIVE COMMONS/LAUREL FAN
  • CREATIVE COMMONS/LAUREL FAN
  • Kale, a leafy green that does not exist in New Orleans.


(UPDATE: The @NOLAKale Twitter account has been suspended. The account didn't tweet anything offensive as far as I could tell and there didn't appear to be any sort of copyright infringement, so this is an odd development to say the least.)

So anyone who's been on Twitter recently may have noticed that #kalegate has been trending in New Orleans. Seems like a pretty ridiculous thing to be trending in New Orleans, right? I mean, who eats kale down here? NOBODY. At least, according to this cringe-inducing piece in The New York Times.

The article quotes Tara Elders, wife of Tremé actor Michiel Huisman, as saying "New Orleans is not cosmopolitan. There's no kale here." Shockingly enough, this isn't even the most ridiculous quote in this article (more on that later) but it has been the subject of much ridicule in the Twittersphere (EDIT: thanks to The Times-Picayune's Jarvis DeBerry), spawning the hashtag #kalegate and the Twitter handle @NOLAKale.

Here are some choice tweets spawned by #kalegate:




Written by "rock and roll and fashion" writer Lizzy Goodman, the entire premise of the article hinges on her fascination with transplants that moved to the city and what "seduced" them. What follows is an incredibly condescending and ridiculous series of anecdotes from transplants which frames New Orleans as some sort of mystical (but also dirty and poor and dangerous) playground for artists and bohemians and...well not much else.

Let's go through each patronizing quote one by one.

Grizzled rockers in leather jackets leaned against the worn walls, smoking. Regulars hunched over the sticky bar drinking cheap draft beer.

N'Awlins is so cool, y'all! You can smoke in bars and drink cheap beer!

As the first few bars of sweaty rhythm and blues hit the room, what had at first seemed like a random collection of disconnected souls became a unified and joyful mass.

We're all just a bunch of lost souls until we hear some blues!

“In New Orleans success is measured by how unhinged you can get,” Alex Ebert of the band Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros told me a few days later. “That lends itself to a wildness that’s beneficial to the soul.”

You guys, no one in New Orleans is considered successful for starting a tech business, being the one of the best in their profession or being an innovative community organizer. Nope, IT'S ALL ABOUT HOW CRAZY YOU CAN GET!

By day, [Huisman] likes to leisurely bike from the Quarter through the Marigny and into the Bywater or drive out to nearby state parks and explore the bayous.

Lazy bike rides and bayou exploring, just a typical day in N'Awlins!

...we drank well-mixed cocktails garnished with fresh herbs and shouted cheerily at each other over enthusiastic accordion music about the influence on all New Orleans artists...

Our booze come with fresh herbs (BUT NO KALE) and we gotta shout over all the bluegrass music to talk about how INSPIRED we all are to be here!

Earlier that day the cellist and I had shared tasty banh mi at a local vegetarian-friendly spot, Green Goddess.

"Vegetarian friendly" EXCEPT FOR KALE. Can't find that here. Nope. Don't even bother looking for it on the menu.

She lives in an apartment where her landlord is a voodoo priestess

And her landscaper is a Carnival King and the guy that delivers the paper wrestles alligators!

“Sorry I didn’t make it to Thanksgiving,” she called out. “I saw pictures of the smoked gator on Facebook. It looked awesome.”

Forget the turkey at Thanksgiving, y'all, PASS THE GATOR.

We began with green juices at Satsuma Cafe

What makes it green? DEFINITELY NOT KALE.

“We arrived at 4 in the morning in a deep fog in the Garden District,” she recalled. “In my mind there were beautiful vampires on vine-strewn balconies.”

N'AWLINS IS JUST LIKE TRUE BLOOD, Y'ALL!

“No one should have the illusion that New Orleans is some safe nice place for kids just out of college to move, because it’s not,” she said.

Did you just graduate college? Are you looking to do some meaningful work in a city that's rated highly for young professionals? DON'T COME TO NEW ORLEANS BECAUSE YOU MIGHT GET SHOT.

Mr. Ebert said he worries his adopted home will be pegged as “Brooklyn south” and become overrun by bright-eyed strivers looking for a new source of authenticity to co-opt. But he’s reassured by the city’s fundamental seediness. “It’s just a little too poor and a little too hot and a little too messy and a little too unkempt for the style to win out,” he said.

What in the...? Honestly, I don't even know where to begin. The guy who says success in New Orleans is measured on "how unhinged" people are - a guy, who mind you, the writer said created his "own private bohemia" in Los Angeles - is worried that people will come to New Orleans to co-opt it's authenticity? But he's not worried about it because the city is "too poor" and "too unkempt"? Wow, way to sound like a pretentious douche for choosing to live in New Orleans while simultaneously taking a metaphorical dump on the entire city.

This whole article would be infuriating if it wasn't so laughable. Ms. Goodman could have done herself a big favor and, instead of basing her entire article on a few anecdotes from a bunch of artists and bohemian transplants, she could have looked at actual data about New Orleans' post-Katrina resurgence. She could have talked to any number of software engineers, teachers, entrepreneurs, civil engineers, doctors or people from any one of the industries that have made New Orleans America's fastest-growing city and asked them about their experiences with the city's rich cultural heritage.

But no, instead she focuses on the notion that all the transplants here are a bunch of artists and bohemians struggling to find some kale and worrying that other artists and bohemians will co-opt our authenticity.


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