I never thought of kale as a luxury item until I moved to Paris in 2012 and couldn’t find it anywhere. My French friends had never heard of it. Vendors at farmers’ markets shrugged when I showed them pictures on my phone. I resorted to smuggling back bags of shredded kale from Amsterdam like a sad drug heist gone wrong.
Then a friend told me about a woman named Kristen Beddard, who’d made it her mission to introduce kale to the French. What?! Crazy talk. Soon after, another friend mentioned her. Followed by David Lebovitz. Then kale started to pop up on menus and in markets throughout the city. Its jump-the-shark moment: When The New York Times did a story on Paris’s kale craze.
Kristen made her mark in France with The Kale Project, but after becoming a bestselling author and a new mom to her beautiful daughter, Grady, she and her family moved back to the States. We reached out to find out about her new life in America, what she misses most about France and what’s next.
I was raised in Pittsburgh, went to Penn State and worked in advertising for five years in Manhattan, where I met my husband. He was raised in Geneva and London, so French is his first language. We moved to Paris in 2011 for his work—and I didn’t speak a word of French!
The decision to move back to the States was very bittersweet. It’s a better fit for my husband professionally so he’s happier, which means we are all happier. But the move is very final. Our time in France won’t happen again. It was a definitive goodbye, which felt sad.
Reverse Culture Shock
Getting back to New York City was so easy. No language issues, I know how things work and where to find stuff. Amazon US is so much better than Amazon France (as in, they actually have a lot of stuff) and everything is open all the time. Because we were coming back as a threesome instead of a couple, I had zero expectations that my “new” life in New York City would be anything like our previous life. It’s been a great opportunity to rediscover the city.
There are things that are shocking. All the crap food at the checkout aisle of pharmacies. The big box stores have always thrown me for a loop and now even more so. It’s cliché to say, but I miss the small shops like the boulangerie, boucherie, fromagerie... Finding a good croissant is near impossible!
Tu Me Manques
I miss all the wonderful friends I made in France. Like all expats, I was in a really specific moment of my life. I met and bonded with really incredible women and I miss them every day. We also miss the wonderful travel opportunities to different countries. And the trains! But I’m closer to my parents now. I’m an only child and they absolutely LOVE being grandparents. They are really helpful and involved, so being a short flight or drive away from them is great.
Bringing Up Bébé In The USA
It’s so important to continue incorporating French culture and language into our daughter’s life. We joke that she’ll probably end up a die-hard Francophile, study in France and marry a Frenchman. Philip only speaks to her in French and we’ve applied to a few French immersion preschool programs for next year. (You know you’re not in France anymore when you have to go through the preschool process!) Half of her family are native French speakers, so we plan to keep the language going.
I really miss the French markets and the awareness of seasonality. At the grocery stores here, it’s really hard to find produce (even in season) that’s not from California, Florida or Mexico. And while the NYC Greenmarkets are wonderful, they aren’t every day—not like in France. I make an effort to go to the market every week and I’m composting now, too!
Just Show Up
The process of memoir writing was really difficult. I don’t view myself as a writer. I was given this amazing opportunity and wanted to challenge myself. The thing with writing is you don’t have these inspiring creative moments. You have to sit down every single day and just write. Even if it’s staring at an outline for two hours, you have to show up. That’s when the work happens. I wrote most of the book when Grady was only 10 weeks old, so I was running back to the house from a Paris cafe to nurse her.
The Kale Project is finished. It always had an end date and I’m okay with that. I’d like to eventually work in some capacity with food systems, food literacy for kids and food justice, but for right now I’m taking my time. I really enjoy—and feel fortunate—to be able to stay home with Grady. I just need to have faith that when the time is right, it will all work out!
Let’s all thank Kristen for bringing kale to France! And don’t miss her wonderful memoir, Bonjour Kale.
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