Lowest Common Denominator Salad
I hate salad. I love my salad.
Over the past year or so, I have completely changed my food intake. I now prepare over 50% of my own meals and I haven’t been to Carl’s Jr at all this year. Starting in October I have created a new kind of diet which I call the Epicurean Paleo Peasant. It’s epicurean in that it uses expensive exotic ingredients from time to time. It follows the Paleo recipe (and some dude named Taubes) and a lot of it is Peasant. By that I mean many of the meals are not cooked, but just raw ingredients – stuff I imagine any cave idiot could assemble.
Over the course of the past few months I have perfected the Caesar salad. It has been reborn under my care, and that has been a revelation. I never, ever liked salad. I can remember cycling up monstrous hills in Southern California 25 years ago with the idea in mind that by burning all these calories as a habit, I would never have to be one of those pathetic old men who have to eat salads. I have to admit that at Sizzler, I would pile on the bleu cheese and raisins in my spinach, but that’s about it. My tolerance for salad was minimal. Until I started making my own.
The obvious problem with salad is that they don’t have enough meat in them, but I always did like since the past 10 years or so of road dogging it, a Caesar salad with my steaks. Once in a blue moon, I’d scarf down a Cobb salad, but that was a rare occasion. So when I started making Caesars, it was clear that I should just put steak in it. It all goes down the same hole, right? But then I started experimenting beyond salmon and chicken to deli meats. Aha. Now I was onto something. And although I cheat by using Ken’s creamy dressing instead of making my own from scratch, I had entered a whole new world of taste. And yes this was salad as a meal. Amazing. I realized that like an LA pizza eater who had never been to NYC or a Boston BBQ eater who had never been down South, I was only experiencing a fraction of what the real deal was. I hated salads until I made my own, and now I love salad. My salad, like a mango chutney chicken & prosciutto Caesar salad served in a pie tin, or pancetta & crab with seared watermelon.
I’ve been sharing pictures of my meals on Facebook now. I’m that proud. And my kids and my wife love my salads, even though the Spousal Unit tends to dislike anchovies and apples with peels still on them. Nevertheless, when I do the boiled egg, avocado and feta versions of the Caesar, she flops over helpless. It is my killer app. So when I went to our annual company picnic, I was eager to make a salad for everyone. Let me tell you about the nightmare.
First I didn’t buy the ingredients myself but had a friend help. I’m downtown in a hotel, how am I supposed to get groceries enough for a dozen people? We had twice as much feta and half as much Parmesan as I wanted. We had no place to boil the eggs. I already knew that some of the guests were vegetarian so I handled that part, but I still really wanted everyone to at least taste my specialty, with garlic sautéed diced pancetta with mushrooms. There was no stove and the pancetta was sliced. So it had to go in cold. It clumped up. Add to all that, I got on scene too late and the crawdads were already on the table. But wait, there’s more. Nobody brought plates and forks. An hour later after working through the compromise, my vegetarian version got the compliments I needed to hear, but getting there was a new kind of ordeal for me.
Undaunted, I am doing the same thing again for a family get together tonight at my Dad’s house. This time I’m making the salad in my own kitchen by myself. But I realized something ten minutes ago when my wife hung up the phone on me. She told me that I shouldn’t put in any meat until I get there in case somebody in my family or guests are vegetarians.
Now I know what’s wrong with America.
Everybody has to eat the salad. The salad is the green vegetable requirement of a balanced diet. But you can’t put anything in it that’s going to offend somebody. That’s why you get the kind of salads you get with stupid tasteless iceberg lettuce, plastic fork evasive cherry tomatoes, park pigeon croutons and some nasty dressing on the side. That’s why people like me grow up hating salad. We keep eating this rabbit plate of complete boredom and keep hearing that it’s suppose to be good for us. Retarded. I don’t want that salad. You don’t want that salad. Nobody wants that salad. It is a nominal, minimal salad of last resort. It’s the Lowest Common Denominator Salad. It makes nobody proud.
They used to say that America was a great melting pot. It was. Then some of us refused to assimilate, proud of our own belly buttons and in so doing, raising the Seventh Deadly Sin to some kind of bizarro world virtue. “We are a salad”, we used to say. Meaning America has some kind of ineffable chunkiness that doesn’t melt, but holds together under some panoptic federal dressing, so long as its complexion isn’t too light. We might call that thing federal law which sticks to us giving the same flavor while leaving our impenetrable cherry-tomato skin intact. Because cherry-tomato pride!
Of course the melting pot will be back when it becomes convenient for certain powers that wanna be to melt our individuality into nothingness in solidarity with (insert victim here) or somebody else who is not the evil One Percent.
I like my salad, and I like it my way. Tonight I’m going to prepare a salad for everybody who doesn’t prepare their own. AND I’m going to make my perfect salad for me. AND I’m going to leave all the tools in the kitchen as well as all the ingredients. If you don’t like what’s served, make your own.