During the holidays, just after one of the Big Meals we all enjoy but regret later, there’s only one thing that will do – a cute little butter cookie from Belgium. My tin of these delectable delights didn’t look very big at Costco, when it was surrounded by a $500 gingerbread house the size of a Buick. But bring the tin home and the enormity of my hedonism becomes very, very real.
My delightfully moderate daughter-in-law, Kristina, reaches for one of the adorable mini-puff-pastry cookies stuffed with butter. It’s half the size of my thumb. I can eat it in one bite without any problem whatsoever. I reach for one too. We look at each other and decide to turn the tin over to see how many calories are in this little morsel. A mere 135 calories for three of the little doo-dahs.
Hell, it’s damn near a salad!
Salad is a bone of great contention in our household. Gary and I are different people in many ways, and that’s just fine, but our shared love for food and beverage is the stuff of legend. Gary bakes, I cook…between us, we’ve brought down more dieters than the annual flu. We’ve been vegetarians, hard-core carnivores, vegans, Adkins freaks, Clean program devotees — in short, anything but consistent in what we eat and why.
When we were vegetarians, we both got fat. Our cholesterol dipped to 150, but our weight jumped up, permanently. Problem was, we were hungry all the time. Craved bacon and shrimp like crazy. I really love vegetarian food; some of my best friends are vegetarians. But something was missing…and it wasn’t salad.
I broke my seven years of vegetarianism by eating a giant paella at a Spanish restaurant in Puerto Montt, Chile. Felt great the next day. Too much bread and cheese can bring a girl down; give me some real protein and I thrive. Gary joined me on the Dark Side some months later in Ennis, Montana, by eating a porterhouse steak one night and three forms of pork for breakfast the next morning. Don’t bring up our cholesterol.
But the salad thing is tricky. Gary loves, I mean, loves salad. I’m sure there are many days that he loves salad way more than me. And sometimes I love pasta more than him. It works out.
Green salads, fruit salads, salads with only lettuce, salads with every conceivable thing in it except croutons. Gary’s not big on croutons. I, however, am big on croutons and not so excited about salad. I share the comedian John Pinette’s feelings about salad:
“Salad isn’t food. Salad comes with the food. Salad is the promise of food to come.”
To Gary, a meal is simply not a meal without salad. To me, salad is a cold and unfriendly concoction with an unappealing texture, too much vinegar in the dressing, and not enough of whatever is in it that I do like. Think of how great bacon is in a salad, right? But is there ever enough bacon to get some in every bite? No, never. There is always too much lettuce and too little of everything else. Blue cheese…same thing; am I wrong?
But if I make a plain green salad for Gary, he acts like I’ve just presented him with an Oscar. You’d think I would do it more often and with more enthusiasm. I could score major points so easily.
Truth be told, the problem with salads is lettuce. It’s limp, unappealing, and completely unsatisfying. Who can get full on lettuce? Who wants to get full on lettuce? I will be so pissed if my last meal on this earth is a salad. Rather, this is my experience:
Our friend, Paty, is famous for making the largest, tastiest, most deeply satisfying salads ever made in the History of the Planet. If she has ever made a salad with fewer than 15 ingredients, I haven’t heard about it. When served elegantly at her formal dining room table, they block the sun. In addition to the amazing ingredients, there are often edible flowers on the top. That’s just the kind of girl she is. This is as close as I can come to, dare I say it, loving a salad. She always serves it with two kinds of fabulous warm bread, plenty of butter, and with at least one giant cocktail.
Gary has been known to utter these disturbing words: “I think I’ll have a salad for dessert.” Wa? He did not do this before we were married. He’ll happily go to the kitchen and bang out a full-plate-sized green salad, topped with all kinds of things that I love in any other form: Tomatoes, olives, onions, cheese, asparagus. And he looks SO happy when he’s eating it. Salad for dessert? Who is this man?
We compromise on Caesar salads. And yes, sometimes I actually will have it for a meal, although I’m pretty sure adding grilled chicken or shrimp to a real Caesar salad is immoral in some peoples’ minds. I’m just trying to fit in.
Women are also weird about salad. And the larger the group of them, the weirder they get. If they go out for drinks after work, most of them order expensive, dangerous, foo-foo drinks and proceed to tell you all about the imperfections in their lives. Pretty damn dull stuff unless I match their drinks one-for-one.
Now these same women, if you meet for lunch, will follow the Unspoken Leader. The Unspoken Leader is whoever orders first. Odds are, this woman will order salad in some form. The pressure is on for everyone else to follow. What am I supposed to do? Yum…a head of iceberg lettuce, farm-raised salmon, and cranberries? Really? And then they don’t eat the delicious garlic bread that comes with the Stupid Salad.
I should cave to the peer pressure but I can’t. This is a good restaurant. They have way better stuff on the menu than just Stupid Salads. I say the hell with it and I compromise by ordering the most sinful vegetarian dish on the menu…a grilled portabello mushroom with three kinds of cheese and a loaf of bread…with a side salad. I pick at the salad with my fork and move it around the plate. The women look at me like I’m a traitor.
Potato salad, shrimp salad, chicken salad, tuna salad? Now that’s a whole different story. Lettuce is kept to a minimum and bread is a likely addition. Of course, what these salads have in common is a food group in and of itself: Mayonnaise (Best Foods/Hellman’s, but not Miracle Whip, puleez…)
I hope I never have to go to the Mayo Clinic because I’ll just giggle the entire time.
Thanks for reading. I know how busy you are.