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Don’t you like salad? July 28, 2011

Posted by ourfriendben in gardening, homesteading, wit and wisdom.
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3 comments

Silence Dogood here. Our friend Ben and I were appalled to read a story in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal called “Crunch Time for the Salad.” (Check it out at www.wsj.com.) It was basically about how the producers of pre-bagged, ready-to-use salad mixes were working on new combinations to entice buyers.

This in itself was hardly surprising: Everybody in the packaged food industry is constantly trying to come up with new products to entice buyers into choosing their stuff over the 45,000 other items available at a typical supermarket.

And OFB and I would have said that, on the whole, prebagged salads are a thriving category, based on the fact that we and everyone we know use them all the time. As organic gardeners, we and most of our friends try to grow our own greens, at least in spring, and buy as much as we can from farmers’ markets locally or get salad greens from our local CSA (subscription-supported organic growers). But local greens stop being available as soon as the weather heats up. And if you’re like us and simply must have a big, satisfying salad at least once a day, you need some outside assistance.

You might think it would be cheaper in that case to simply buy an assortment of whole head lettuces and other ingredients rather than paying a premium price for pre-washed, pre-blended, pre-packaged greens, but you’d be wrong. At least in our area. One of our local groceries regularly offers “buy one, get one free” discounts on bagged greens, making their cost comparable to bulk greens. And another regularly offers reduced bags of salad greens for 99 cents to keep their produce moving, and that’s a third of what you’d pay for a head of iceberg lettuce, much less Romaine or a “gourmet” type.

Just think, less than a dollar for a whole bag of premium mixed salad greens! It’s true that I’ll usually add some punch or oomph to our salads, in the form of shredded carrots, cherry tomatoes, shredded cheese, chopped scallions or red onion, diced bell pepper, olives, pepitas (roasted pumpkinseeds), and maybe some broccoli slaw and/or arugula or kale or, if I can find them, mustard greens. But for less than a dollar, I could buy OFB his dream salad, a Caesar with Romaine, croutons, Parmesan, and dressing all in the same easy-open package, with plenty for me to have my own greens and toppings. Never has there been such a great, delicious deal.

Mind you, I actually love to graze on naked salad fixings, as friends have pointed out many times. And they’re so right: Given a choice, I’d eat undressed lettuce and all the other ingredients and never put any dressing on them. But I’ve read many times that both oil and vinegar help you extract and digest the nutrients from salad, so I try to be dutiful and top my salads with extra-virgin olive oil and yummy aged balsamic vinegar. And yes, I do enjoy oil and vinegar dressing very much. But I’d still rather eat the salad plain, maybe with a bit of salt and some fresh basil and mint and thyme leaves tossed in!

Anyway, however you make it, as long as the major ingredient is crunchy lettuce or a combination of lettuces, our friend Ben and I love our salads and feel like we’ve been deprived if we don’t eat at least one salad a day. If we could, we’d eat three salads a day, at least in hot weather. Which is why the article in the Wall Street Journal came as such a shock: It claimed that “the average American eats a salad at mealtime only about 36 times a year.”

Say what? What?!! What on earth, what the bleep?! That’s, what, three times a month?!! How could that possibly be? How could people willingly sacrifice the opportunity to enjoy that delicious crunch, the blending of flavors and textures and colors? I’ve long ago had to admit to myself that my favorite part about going out to eat is the salad bar, and if I never had a single entree, it wouldn’t bother me at all. A bowl of salad and a baked potato is my idea of nirvana. OFB certainly wouldn’t agree, but I wouldn’t want to have to deal with him if his nightly salad were withheld for some reason.  

What are people eating instead on the 316 days when they don’t eat salad? I can’t imagine. But it makes me so sad, thinking what they’re missing. Don’t you like salad? 

                ‘Til next time,

                                Silence