ADMITTEDLY I’m already into health foods, thus I don’t need to be converted. I’m also very open minded and experimental when it comes to trying new foods, as long as it’s not the live red ant curry I was offered in the Cambodian countryside or the squelchy cooked lamb’s brains I almost passed out watching someone else noisily suck out of the poor animal’s skull. So this isn’t a post about someone who suddenly discovers the amazing attributes of a vegetable she previously considered healthy but nondescript; in fact, when I heard that Troo Food Liberation (TFL), a cooking & raw/vegan awareness-raising team I’ve been a big fan of for years now, had produced their own Kale Chips, I was excited to try them out.
My love of healthy, bio, ethical foods and years of self-experimentation with the effects and energies of foods, as well as my job as a journalist, at some point naturally led me to hooking up with the Troo Food team, who are unique in what they do in Greece, as well as how they go about promoting their foodosophies.
They are youthful, funky, and offbeat, as well as active, political and hard-working, and are regular participants in festivals and events, organising classes and workshops, featuring in magazine interviews and so on. They are also surprisingly popular, in a country that could easily be described as ‘meat-loving’.
TFL could be said to have altered a lot of people’s dietary and culinary perspectives during their past six years of action in Greece, and probably not as an indirect result, there is now a growing movement in the vegan circles, with more and more vegetarian/vegan restaurants opening up, more grocery stores selling vegan-friendly products, and the opening of the capital’s first raw food cafe (Yi, in the southern suburb of Glyfada), which Troo Food’s Danae Tsekoura also helped set up.
I first interviewed them around four years ago, when I hosted them on my then radio show ‘Athens4real’. To listen to that interview, click here
Meeting TFL inspired me to attend some of their workshops in raw cuisine, usually taught by Danae. I loved learning the far more creative ways of putting together and enjoying raw ingredients to create delicious, health-boosting and colourful dishes, and despite realising that I will always like the art of cooking stuff too much to go completely raw, I relished discovering various raw food techniques, above all that of dehydrating foods. I developed a lingering crush for Danae’s Excalibur dehydrator and still long for one of my own today, dreaming of the day when I can concoct my own raw snacks.
What most delighted me about dehydrating was how something as simple as sliced tomatoes with a drizzle of olive oil and spices could become a yummy, crunchy, uber-healthy snack that can be stored for weeks and enjoyed with all its vitamins and minerals completely intact. Perhaps it’s the paradoxical two sides of me – the practical, forward-thinking part (being able to stick my hand into a jar in a tired, hungry moment and coming up with something beneficial and enjoyable rather than a chocolate chip cookie) and the live-for the-moment part that has me creating new things, playing with flavours and textures and experimenting.
Offering to review Troo Food’s new Kale chip range, I was handed a far bigger variety than I’d imagined they had, of what they’ve created so far: Kale chips in three flavours (Mustard, Spicy and Cheezy) and kale crackers in two flavours (Cheezy and Mustard). My cunning plan was to get together the My Greek Review Food Task-Force and hold a very focused tasting session. The products were all in one bag, at the entrance of my home, ready to be taken to the tasting zone.
That first evening upon their welcome arrival to my living quarters, in my excitement to get a first taste, I tore open the Spicy Kale Chips. Mmmm. They were crunchy, with a slight chewiness, and had a very faint smoky taste reminiscent of a campfire, with a hot kick at the end – that was the smoky paprika and cayenne pepper talking. I scoffed another handful, sealed the reusable packet and got on with my busy evening. Passing by around an hour later, I had to fight the temptation of having another handful. Instead, I rationalised, I could try the kale crackers, which are a completely new concept to me, and thus I must satisfy my curiosity about quite immediately. I sampled the Mustard Kale Crackers and was surprised by the slightly metallic, very mustardy taste and the interesting texture – smooth and glossy, crunchy and crispy all at once. The Mustard flavour is enhanced by the chewy crunch of sunflower seeds and cashew nuts as well as apple cider vinegar. In fact the taste was so different to anything I’d had before (except mustard itself) that I simply had to also open the Mustard Kale Chips to compare the flavour and textural differences between the chips and the crackers.
The following day, my baby got a fever, so the Food Task-Force meeting was postponed. Worrying about and caring for my son also meant that my energy reserves plummeted, as did the amount of time I had to prepare anything decent for myself to eat. So it’s no great surprise that when I spotted the bag of TFL kale ‘supersnack’ I made the very practical and intelligent decision to eat the healthiest thing available to me. This time I dipped my hand into the Cheezy Kale Chips and, for the very important sake of comparison (even when caring for my child I continue to care for this blog’s review pages) I had to try the Cheezy Kale Crackers as well. The cheese effect in these is created with crushed sunflower seeds, cashew nuts and nutritional yeast (one of those ingredients I could never bring myself to use – I’ve very wastefully bought and chucked out this Vitamin B12 -rich product twice – but now I got a new idea of how great it can be.
By now, I believe you get the picture and can clearly comprehend why there are only a few flakes of kale yumminess left in each of the packets – so little that I’m too ashamed to present these dregs to the Food Task-Force for sampling and am thus writing this review without their input. Shamelessly, I have no real regrets, as I know I did what I had to do – consciously and dedicatedly sampled the products for review while enjoying every single moment of doing so, moments that I spaced out as much as possible as I could have easily guzzled them all in one or two sittings, so light, crunchy and delicious are they all.It’s worth mentioning at this point that the keep-fresh sachets in each pack do their job, despite many openings and closings of packets (now I’m in true confessional mode) the product remained fresh, crisp and flavourful.
Personally I had a preference for the spicy chips first, followed by the cheesy chips and then the cheesy crackers and finally the mustard flavoured chips and crackers. As TFL no doubt knows (they’re probably in their food crime fighting laboratory right now, generating new ways to delight their growing list of devotees) , the potential for kale chip and cracker flavours is endless. I’m already fantasising of salt and vinegar, lemon and salt, and maybe a red hot Indian curry or a Thai Tom Yum or Japanese Wasabi or Nori flavours!
These products are seriously good for your health, low fat and tasty in a fun way, just like eating junk food only you’re not, as even the salt and oil that are added are Himalayan and Extra Virgin Olive Oil. They may cost a little more than double than your average packet of potato crisps but the benefits are so far superior that they’re well worth the extra coins. In fact, if today’s big crisp manufacturers were really smart, they would start making kale and other vegetable chips a common and accessible product in the market.