I don’t think most people understand salads.
I say this because I didn’t understand salads until last year. I was 29.
Now, of course, I could be an outlier. But am I? I tend to think not, because all the people that I tell about my salad revelation seem to be just as surprised by the perspective as I was when I first encountered it.
Or did it encounter me?
I spent my whole life thinking there were two kinds of salads. Here’s the first kind:
That means lettuce (romaine if you were a true creative), carrots, tomatoes, and cucumbers. Sometimes more, sometimes less. The quintessential “side salad” you’d find at everywhere from Denny’s to Red Lobster. Croutons a must.
This, unless you’d taken a community college cooking class, was basically what you were limited to making for yourself at home, or so I thought. Despite my naivety, however, I was aware of another type of salad:
I call them big salads because they come in big bowls, unlike boring salads. Now, if you really hate yourself, it is possible to go to a steakhouse and pay $15 for a huge bowl of nothing but greens and store-bought dressing being criminally passed off as a Caesar
Generally speaking, though, big salads are better and more complex. In them, you’ll find such delicacies as pomegranate, couscous, and peanut dressing. Quinoa, almonds, and salmon, oh my!
Chain restaurant big salads are usually overpriced and underwhelming. Visit a place with tablecloths and more than six five-star Yelp reviews, though, and the big salads you stumble on could be life-changing.
But I digress. (Or is it digest?)
I thought that these were the two types of salads in the world.Turns out, I just fundamentally misunderstood salads for almost three decades.
Here’s what I got wrong: I thought salads needed a recipe.
I thought only a trained chef could manage to make a delicious meal out of a bunch of weird stuff all tossed together in a bowl.
It’s literally as easy as it sounds. I could go to my kitchen and make an amazing salad right now, and it wouldn’t take me 5 minutes. In fact …
Okay, I’m back. Four minutes, 30 seconds, and I’ll eat it after I post this article.
Where was I? Oh yeah.
Since definitions can differ from dictionary to dictionary, I thought we’d take a look at some of the widely accepted synonyms of salad instead. Here goes:
Medley. Montage. Miscellany. Mishmash.
Hodgepodge. Hash. Clutter. Collage.
In other words, a salad (the eating kind) is nothing more than stuff you put in a bowl together, and it can be anything. And you know what? The more the better!
I’m not saying you should try to be weird. A garlic, onion, and cabbage salad is gonna be a no from me.
But if you stick to things you like, and add in just a dash of common sense, you should come out with a really, really tasty dish that is virtually foolproof to make, easy to clean up, and healthy as they come.
Plus it helps you use up stuff from your fridge and cabinets that otherwise would just sit.
= yesterday’s lunch
You can do this with so many sets of ingredients. You don’t need to decide beforehand if they’ll work together. Just have a little faith. They will.
I’m not saying every salad you make will blow you away.
I’m not saying you’ll love olive them.
But there’s no better feeling than making your own food that’s healthy, cheap, and delicious.
I like to think salads have taught me a few things.
First, I’m probably stupid and ignorant about a lot of things and won’t realize it for years, if ever.
Second, the belief that things are better as a result of careful planning is almost always misguided.
Life doesn’t need a recipe. Just stick to things you like.
Mix them up. Make them yours. Make it unique.
And lettuce be always grateful for the opportunity.