Salad Days

Photo Credit: Michelle Humes

When I was a kid, salad rarely made an appearance at our dinner table.

My Dad was not a fan of “rabbit food”. However, if we had visitors, my Mom would pull out a big, etched glass bowl into which she’d dump a head of lettuce, torn to bits, and tomatoes sliced into wedges that were big enough to avoid if they were not wanted.

The only other time I saw salad stuff at the table was on “BLT night”, a family favorite. By definition, ours was an eat-in kitchen, but because there were eight of us (including my in-resident Grandma) sitting around the table, the kitchen had little maneuverability. Nonetheless, Mom would peel a head of lettuce like an onion, placing each clam-shaped leaf on a platter next to which sat a bowl stacked high with tomato slices.

My older sister would man the toaster, flinging hot slices to my brother who was armed with a blunt knife and a stick of butter, ready to disperse the dripping, aromatic bread to waiting plates.

My mom stood nearby watching over the bacon sizzling in her electric frying pan. With tongs in hand, she’d grab each slice as soon as it looked good and crispy, then carefully lay them on a paper towel-lined dish. When it was full, she’d take a deep breath and set it on a reserved spot in the middle of the table. Then we descended on it like piranhas.

In retrospect, I’m amazed Mom made it through with all limbs and digits in tact.

Those were the days…

And like my parents before me, I rarely offer rabbit food at our dinner table. My husband and I were never big salad eaters and it never occurred to me to serve salad to my kids.

But this daily sit-down dinner thing is starting to cast some sort of weird spell over all of us.

Along with my resolution, my son announced his intention to avoid meat this year. That trickled over to my  husband who, hoping to drop a few pounds, vowed to stick with healthier choices.

If I was going to get the rest of my crew on board, any salad I served would have to be tasty, colorful and easy to modify for their very different likes and dislikes. As for me, since I’m still running, any salad I made would have to be substantial – not just a showy bit of bunny food on the side of my plate.

I checked online for any recipes that might fit the bill. All I saw was a lot of ingredients that would turn my family off of salads faster than you can say “bean sprout”.

Then I remembered a graduation party we attended last summer. The hostess served a salad that was remarkably good, tasty and hearty. I called her, requesting the recipe. My heart sank when she told me that the party had been catered, but then I rallied when she told me who catered it. I googled it and found the recipe (who says laptops don’t belong in the kitchen?). Turns out, it’s a chopped salad. Simple really. Basic ingredients. Easily modifiable.

Score!

I don’t make the vinaigrette dressing that goes with it – I just put a couple of bottles of different dressings on  the table. I also leave certain things chopped up in separate bowls – the chicken, onions, cheese, tomatoes and bacon bits. What’s left are two different kinds of lettuce (didn’t I tell you it was fancy?) and little ditalini pasta – normally reserved for soups.

And my family loves it. It goes with everything I serve and can act as a stand-alone meal for my husband and I.

Who knew? Well, besides the bunnies…

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