Three weeks ago, Becky from PA wrote the Apron Stage this email:

I’ve been thinking about Sarah’s Hunger post for a long time.  I would love a list of what she puts on her salads.  I am a huge salad fan but they have gotten very boring.  Carrots and celery just aren’t cutting it any more.

-Becky in PA[1]

In short, Becky requested that I write my dream post.  I am an avowed salad lover.  For my birthday (thank you, ASers, for the virtual presents!), my roommates gave me, I kid you not, salad-themed gifts.  Silver salad tongs, a Williams-Sonoma salad cookbook aptly titled Salad, and a chocolate birthday cake covered in green coconut and red and brown sprinkles.  “Salad cake!” they yelled.


So when I mentioned to Manfriend I was planning to write Becky’s post, he said, “So you’re basically going to write a post listing every food you’ve eaten for the last year?”

He has a point.  Because, it turns out, I think the secret to salad success is (1) keeping an open mind, while (2) maintaining high standards, and (3) leaving the rest to God.  Which basically means, if it tastes good, I’ve considered putting it on a salad.

Let me ‘splain.


1. If it has lettuce, it’s a salad.

This is a personal rule.  Meaning, if I add lettuce to something, for my purposes, I’ve turned it into salad.

Manfriend explained it to my new roommate this way: “What you do is you take whatever food you were going to eat, and you replace the carbohydrate—the pasta, the bread, the rice, potato, etc.—with lettuce.  Bingo.  Salad.”[2]

We have recently eaten the following salads:

  • Pizza salad—either chunky stewed Italian-flavored tomatoes cooked in olive oil, with sautéed onions, garlic, and turkey pepperoni, topped with shredded parmesan, on lettuce, or, you know, just cut-up pieces of pizza on lettuce (note: we eat this at least once a week)
  • Chili cheese dog salad—grilled hot dogs, chili, shredded sharp cheddar, green onions, diced yellow onions, and tomatoes on lettuce
  • Quesadilla salad—bite-sized pieces of quesadilla topped with salsa, plain greek yogurt (our naturally low-fat replacement for sour cream), and maybe a little guacamole, all on lettuce
  • Subway Sandwich Salad—a foot-long Italian meat sandwich on a bed of lettuce

Reason #843 Manfriend is a good idea: he’s 100% on board with my ridiculous salads.

2. Remember who you are.  And what you are about to eat.

This cannot be overstated.

The ONLY reason my (excessive) salad eating is tolerable—is desirable—is because I put good things in my salad.

I start with the lettuce.  I never eat iceberg.  I try not to eat lettuce out of a bag (I’m thinking romaine hearts here).  I will only eat pre-torn lettuce if I’m desperate.

My go-to is the romaine bound with twisty-tie.  The darker, the swarthier, the heavier—the better.  I like my lettuce when it tastes like it was grown somewhere.  When it’s hardy.  And romaine has these ribbed spines that burst with watery crispness in my mouth.  It’s like God’s pop rocks.  Amazing.

I try to follow similar principles for my other produce—it should look like it was grown somewhere.  It should taste good all by itself.  It should make you happy to cut it, make pre-bagged salads look wimpy, make salads with dressing look ostentatious and overdone.  Like they’re hiding something.  Organic carrots (unpeeled), tomatoes on the vine, fresh green beans, firm kiwis, raw corn (uncooked even, cut right off of the cob), warm and fleshy baked sweet potatoes, alfalfa sprouts, juicy apricots, and as many avocados as you can afford.  Eat what’s in season.  Eat what is colorful.  Eat what you respect.  And your salad can’t go wrong.

Similar principles apply to nuts and cheeses.  Consider the glories: cheeses—shredded parmesan or any other hard cheese, crumbly cheese with craisins, jalapeno jack, anything can be good; nuts—cashews, pistachios, honey roasted peanuts, Trader Joe’s sesame seed-covered almonds, depending on how fancy I’m feeling; protein—smoked salmon, barbecue chicken, oysters with garlic sauce, shrimp and Old Bay seasoning, chicken and apple sausage, bacon, scrambled eggs, any kind of bean (really, any); other accoutrements—capers, Greek olives, fresh-squeezed lemon, buttermilk batter-fried onions, sautéed mushrooms, hash browns.

I’m salivating as I’m writing this.  Salad is the best idea ever.

3. The bare floor of deliciousness.

It is out of my respect for my salads that I do not eat dressing.  Even at restaurants, I do not eat dressing.

I recommend you do the same.

I’ve begun to think of salad dressing like adolescent lusts.  They may satisfy us in some ways, but they keep us from learning to love what is real.  Not that there aren’t some good ones[3]—analogously, some people’s high school sweethearts become their eternal companions—but most of them are a waste of energy.  By which I mean calories.

Say it to yourself: Salad dressing.  It was so 2009.

*           *          *          *          *

I realize that these salad principles can turn salad eating into an expensive proposition.  (I am embarrassed but not sorry about the amount of money I spent on my family’s Thanksgiving salad.)  But I want to bear my testimony: you can make salads work for you.  I know strictly budgeting individuals, living hand to mouth and close to the bone, who’ve raised their salad standards.  They have not regretted it.

When I die, I want it to be known: I was a woman who loved her friends.  And her salad.  I feel like in both, I celebrate the goodness and bounty of a generous God.

Because good goo, what a good time.

[1] It should be noted: Becky is my cousin.  I love her.  And I love that she emailed the AS gmail account to request that I, her eternal relative, share with her something about salads.

[2] Sometimes you can leave the carbohydrate in—both pasta and potatoes can taste awesome in salad; as can toasted and buttered bagels, or overgrilled cheese sandwiches, cut into croutons.

[3] One that recently came to my attention deserves special attention.  It’s Sus’s dressing.  My friend Sus recounted to me a salad she’d made once—sliced plum, fresh mozzarella, sugared pecans, and avocado—on which she put this homemade dressing: one part fresh-squeezed lemon juice, one part olive oil, a healthy scooping of brown sugar, and fresh cracked pepper.  She said the first time she ate it, she cried.  The first time I made it, I found myself eating the dressing at the bottom of my salad bowl with a spoon.  It was amazing.  AMAZING.  And a dressing that proves the rule.  Nothing less mouthwatering than Sus’s dressing will ever seriously tempt me again.