Church Lady Cookbook Dialogs: Waste Not Want Not: The Kale and Pig Hocks Edition

3 min readMay 7, 2020

Don’t get me wrong. I like kale. I use it in salads and love it with Swiss cheese and some honey mustard dressing as a low cost nutritious sandwich. What I don’t like about kale is that it comes in bags the size of overstuffed pillows and, to my everlasting disappointment, I have never been able to use it all before it starts to go bad.

I hate to waste anything and throwing good food away hurts my heart. I’ve lived a long life of near the economic edge. I have eaten things I’ve seen others toss with nary a care as my mind races thinking of how much that cost, how I could have used that and an immense sadness over the waste as it plopped into the garbage. I’ve cut the green parts off cheese, ignored expired dates, perfected the smell test and generally stretched my what-is-acceptable to eat comfort level.

So, this kale thing has been a wrenching dilemma when debating whether I should buy that yummy, healthy, inexpensive pile of kale. I carefully weigh how I will prepare it, whether I can finish it all, and eventually resign myself to its loss when I cringe and finally give in and toss it weeks later.

But the good Dutch ladies of the Baxter Street Christian School of Grand Rapids, MI have offered me an out, Boerenkool, a (literal) mash up of kale and potatoes. Recipes in the church lady cookbook they published January 1945 include recipes handed to them from their mothers and grandmothers from the old country. This one is especially beloved as it is a comfort food for long cold winters. These Dutch women and others of this era were reluctant to throw away food and used everything they could afford in order to provide their families with a healthy meal. Boerenkool is often served with sausage on top, and this particular recipe includes additional flavor and nutrition using stock from a pig hock.

Pig hocks (aka: ham hocks) are the lower portion of the rear leg at the joint. They consist of collegen, connective tissue, fat, skin and only a small amount of meat. While they do not make many appearances in modern kitchens and recipes they likely were around in your gramma and great-gramma’s kitchen. They are inexpensive and while not much on them is necessarily edible, they provide a tasty and nutritious way to create soup or stock for use in other recipes. Cheaper cuts of meat and those that have fallen out of favor from popular taste may be making a come-back. The current disruption of the meat supply chain may require some creative thinking and we can go back to gramma’s kitchen for some ways to deal with this.

This recipe makes use of an abundance of kale, and makes sure that none of the pork goes to waste either. My heart was filled with joy that nothing needs go to waste for a tasty and satisfying meal. This makes me happy. Here you go, a recipe for Borenkool:

Originally published at on May 7, 2020.




writer, reader, introvert, feminist. has lots to say, some of it interesting. will smile for kittens. will not smile for you. she/her.