Salads Are A Meal: A True Story Of Food + Love
Anyone who says a salad isn't a meal has been:
1) shopping incorrectly their whole life
2) ordering take out or off of a fine menut all wrong
3) missing opportunities to discover some serious green lovin' - big time
Please note I'm not talking about fried chicken cutlet salads bathed in ranch dressing which are cool when you're in like Phoenix, Arizona and the options are limited - I've been there. On the regular you may want to step up your salad game because it doesn't take too much time or effort. I mean you have to get the ingredients, but when you're stocked - delicious salads are a breeze. Not to mention salads are the perfect way to use up odds, ends, leftovers and serve as a great way to start a meal so you fill your tank with greens first. A simple shopping trip to discover greens is also a great place to start learning how to pick out your goodies if that thought is scary to you (and that's where I come in).
Every weekend as a Wee-T I went grocery shopping with my mom and dad so needless to say I learned how to shop, pick out produce and cook a thing simply by observing. We ate salads with just about every meal just about every night of the week. Wet iceberg lettuce soaked in red wine vinegar and olive oil with thinly sliced red onions was my grandmothers post-meal secret weapon. I liked this salad best the day after, simple and uncomplicated, eaten with a slice of bread to soak up the oily puddle at the bottom of the Corelle bowl. Sometimes she would boil potatoes and string beans and throw those in too, either way I ate it up. I can still picture her in the basement, slightly hunched over the kitchen table that was adjacent to her sewing machine - tearing lettuce with her hands and mumbling about my grandfather being a pain, all while Italian radio hummed in the background. Then there were the moments with my mom, picking her up from work at the bakery where she met my father and I in her flour marked work shirt. Rain, sleet, snow, horrendous humidity, she always stood smiling at the vegetable market on 86th Street carefully selecting her week of greens, zucchinis, cauliflower and broccoli - examining each vegetable and weighing everything so we stayed within budget.
These are my salad memories.
Sometimes I wonder how I ended up being 320 lbs when vegetables were a mainstay in our home, and then I remember the nights I cried and ate salami sandwiches alone in my room after my grandparents tucked me in and my parents were at the hospital taking care of my brother Thomas. The evenings of double dinners, that's when I would eat at my friends house at 5pm, then eat second dinner with my grandparents at 9pm. And even though I loved my salads and ate two dinners, I still went for more later. In the salami drawer I went for more comfort.
At our home in Brooklyn salads were meals, the salami was flowing, pasta was served with potatoes and leftovers always made an appearance. My whole life is a story of food.
And as I'm headed on a 10 day trip to hang out in pajamas, maybe wash my hair (but maybe not) and get fed in hugs and 7 fishes from my parents (yup, I'm going home for Christmas), it's still strange to call South Carolina home because Brooklyn always will be (even though I moved to Queens). My memories are flooded with Brooklyn moments as you can tell from the above, but alone I sat in Queens at 1pm cleaning out my refrigerator to make one last meal before I left. Spinach, endive, the last of some oranges, pomegranates and an avocado. No salami to be found, not this week. All of these thoughts and meal moments rushed through my mind and landed on my plate.
I thought about how my grandmother and mom would be proud that I used every last bit of food in my home before departing to go away. How proud they would be not because I lost the weight, but because I figured myself out (and I still am). They taught me the ways of no waste, cooking through taste and how to love myself and salads despite my size. What a gift.
Salads are a meal. Our food stories are all inside of us and meals can be anything we want them to be so long as we're satisfied by them in the end. So long as we're connected to what our food is giving us in return.
- Spinach, lettuce of choice or any leftover greens
- Radishes or any veggies that make a salad great, think kohlrabi, daikon or cucumber
- Orange slices
- Pomegranates or something red for color, like dried cranberries
- Focus on color goals when building your salad, so it's not a bore but fun to eat
- 1 avocado
- Juice of 2 medium oranges
- 1 T. of orange zest
- Juice of 1 small lemon
- 1 T. extra virgin olive oil
- Pinch of salt
- Plate greens and arrange a pretty plate, you deserve it
- Place all dressing ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and blend until combined OR place all dressing ingredients in a bowl and use an immersion blender to combine
- Drizzle dressing over salad
- Store dressing in a glass jar for up to 2 days