My college friend Virginia was one of the first people who inspired my interest in nutrition. She cooked healthy, homemade meals every day, and always made the effort of packing up her healthy homemade food and taking it with her on her bike to work for lunch. She taught me how to cook my own meals, to appreciate foods like brown rice, kale, and different spices, as well as how to make something “healthy” taste delicious. She was a real do-it-yourselfer, knitting, sewing and making her own clothing, socks, hats, etc, and inspired me to learn to knit. She was also an incredibly smart scientist, trying to make the world a better place through her research. And as a 20 year old just starting out on my journey of how to take care of myself and be conscious of what I was putting into my body, I thought that she was the bees knees.
One summer I stayed at her house for several weeks (the site of my first healthy cooking lessons), and I remember her making kale with many of our meals. I always complained about having to eat kale because I said it was gross and tasted like eating raw leaves. She would tell me in her wise, scientist way that kale was extremely healthy and nutrient rich and we had to eat it because it was so vital to good health. So I suffered through eating kale many meals, trusting her judgment and wisdom, but never without complaint at the strange health foods she was torturing me with.
When I started my education at Integrative Nutrition 4 years later, the first recommendation I got as a nutrition student was, “if I could tell you to do one thing that would greatly impact your health in a positive way, it would be to eat more leafy greens”… i.e. - kale.
Virginia passed away earlier this year from terminal cancer at the age of 24. Unfortunately, as with the other big loss I have experienced so far in my life, we didn’t part on very good terms (a lesson I have learned the hard way - to never put off an apology, love letter, or amends for tomorrow). But when I found out about her death, I felt even more inspired by her example to work on my own personal health and to pursue an education in nutrition so that I can work as a Holistic Health Counselor, supporting others the way that she supported me in my journey toward better health.
The crazy thing is that over the past 6 months I have learned to incorporate so many healthy, nutrient packed, leafy greens into my diet, that where in the past I could never have envisioned the day where I would prepare them intentionally, greens have now become almost a daily staple food for me…steamed and served with a little bit of pepper, salt and lemon juice on top. They are the whole, healing foods I turn to when I’ve eaten too much junk food or need to restore balance to my body and my life.
And I still think about Virginia every time I eat kale.