16 November 2012

The Salad

I hate salads. There is no such thing as a salad that I might like. There are no varying gradations of acceptable salads. I hate all of them equally (except pasta salad. I hate that salad the most. More below). I hate everything about them. I hate hearing my mum say, "Mary, can you make the salad?" I hate watching Mary (it's always Mary) make the salad. I hate seeing the salad(s) brought out to the dinner table. I hate watching people serve salad with those archaic tools (just use tongs already! This should not be a two-hand affair!). I hate watching people move their lettuce around the plate to sop up the last bits of dressing. I hate seeing the leftover dressing in the fridge because it makes me feel like I live in a laboratory that's in the business of testing unhealthy stool samples.

There are so many different kinds of salad that it's almost useless to collect them all under the blanket term "salad." What would it mean for someone to tell you that they're having salad for dinner? It wouldn't mean anything. They might be eating any disgusting combination of food! Aside from being a grab-bag of mixed ingredients, salads don't really have that much in common. Of course there are the lettuce (or other leafy greens)-based salads, but then there are all those other kinds of salads. Like bean salads. Or cold pasta salads. Or cold, slimy, Oriental noodle salad. Or potato salad. "Salad" is just an arbitrary term thrown around recklessly and attached to any collection of solid food (ie. not a soup) that is served in a bowl. If these people were half as creative at coming up for names as they are in creating revolting culinary concoctions, I wouldn't be in the position of trying to tackle all of the varying kinds of salad in one rambling post. Sometimes I wonder if anyone cares about my welfare at all.

Before I get into all of the different bowl-foods that are wrongfully and lazily referred to as salads, let me address why salads perfectly encapsulate everything I hate about food. Even though there are infinite different kinds of salads, one thing they have in common (although this is not something that is exclusive to salads, so I don't think it can be considered a defining feature) is that they're mixed. Whenever I inevitably have to explain to someone why I don't eat certain foods, I typically fall back on the excuse that I don't like my food mixed or touching other foods. Anyone who knows me knows that this is not an accurate statement. I love borscht, I love apple pie, I love spaghetti bolognese--there's actually a whole multitude of mixed foods that I would count among my favourite meals. But--and here's where it might get a bit tricky to explain--the mixed foods that I like make sense as mixed foods (with the exception of borscht. I have no idea why I like borscht. I shouldn't, but oh my God, it's so delicious). All of these foods are perfected by their combination. I love plain pasta, but it only really shines when it's paired with a bolognese sauce (similarly, I love ground beef, but it's only perfected when combined with a tomato sauce). I love apple sauce, but it's really only at its best when it's in a pie shell. These foods make sense together because there are no jarring and contradictory sensations at play. They go together like Dick and Nicole in Tender is the Night: "He supposed many men meant no more than that when they said they were in love — not a wild submergence of soul, a dipping of all colors into an obscuring dye, such as his love for Nicole had been."

But salads are the exact opposite, and they're what I mean when I tell people that I hate mixed food. Those ingredients don't go together at all. There's too much forced combination of different textures, different liquid consistencies. There's no logic behind combining lettuce, feta cheese, olives, and tomatoes. Of course I've never tried a Greek salad, but I don't have to in order to know that there are at least three too many sensations going on there (technically four because I wouldn't eat any of those ingredients). Wait. How many ingredients are there in a Greek salad? Whatever the number, that's how many of them are totally unacceptable.

So, without any further ado, let's get this show on the road. What follows is by no means an exhaustive salad list; I've included only the salads that immediately come to mind and that I have likely observed first hand.

Green Salad: Of all the salads, this one is the least offensive to my logic of mixing because, it is my understanding, that it is just lettuce and a light dressing. But it also doesn't make any sense to me. Why bother with this salad? If eating that leaf of lettuce that one time has taught me anything, it's that lettuce has absolutely no purpose. It's not filling and the texture is unpleasant.

Caesar Salad: Caesar salads are everywhere, but it wasn't until part way through high school that I actually figured out what it is. What's all the fuss about? Why is this salad on every single menu? It sounds disgusting. Egg? Worcestershire sauce? I wonder if I ordered a Caesar salad but asked them to hold the lettuce, the egg, the olive oil, the lemon juice, the Worcestershire sauce, the garlic, and the pepper if they would just bring me two separate bowls of parmesan cheese and croutons. Because I could get on board with that kind of salad.

Greek Salad: Ever since someone first explained "dick cheese" to me in elementary school, I knew I would never eat Feta cheese. I'm pretty sure that's where it comes from. Have you ever met a Greek man? They're disgusting. But there are a lot of other problems with a Greek salad. Like the large portions of tomato that force you to acknowledge their presence in a way that small cubes of tomato never do. Or the olives. Did you know that I won't shop in a grocery store that has an open olive bar because they smell and look so disgusting that I can't bear to spend another second in their vicinity? (Take note, Extra Foods in Grand Forks).

Santa Fe Salad: I hate to break it to you, but this isn't a salad. It's a bowl of beans. I understand that it sounds a lot better to roll into a potluck and announce that you've brought a Santa Fe salad rather than "Oh hey, I just brought this bowl full of beans," but come on. Call a spade a spade.

Pasta Salad: Presumably "pasta salad" is a category unto itself, but the pasta salad I'm aware of is composed of cold cork-screw pasta and strawberries and, as such, is the most offensive salad of them all. This is exactly what I meant when I said that salad forces two things together that by no means should be. Look, I love pasta. No one loves pasta more than I do. And I love strawberries. They're the second best berry (after perfectly plump blueberries, obviously). But even though I love both of them, there's no way I would ever consider putting them in a bowl together and then adding God knows what else! Get out of here with your pasta salad! I am crying right now! I'm not just saying that as a figure of speech or for emphasis! I am actually crying because it's too much for me to take in.  Stop ruining everything I love in this world! You want your strawberries paired with something more substantial? Then eat them on a waffle or with an angel food cake or in a pie or as jam on toast, but for the love of God, leave pasta out of it!

Noodle Salad: The only good thing that can be said about this salad is that it doesn't try to incorporate summer fruits. This salad is probably so slimy and makes me shudder in the exact same way that I shuddered when my mum told me that one time she was swimming in the ocean and then when she got back on the boat and shined a flashlight into the water she had just been swimming in, it was full of eels.

Kale Salad: Wow, I bet you shop at a farmer's market. I bet you bought some fashionable tote bags just to do your farmer's market shopping. I bet you rub beets on those tote bags so that when someone asks why there's a purple stain on your tote bag, you can say, "Oh, this ol' stain? That's just a beet stain from all the beets I bought at the farmer's market. I always shop at the farmer's market because I like to support our local farmers." Now that I'm actually looking at this picture of a kale salad, it looks a lot like what the end result would be if I ate a salad and then threw it up into a bowl.

Coleslaw: I've never eaten coleslaw, and I never will. But one good thing that can be said about coleslaw is that at least it has a consistent texture. What is it? Just raw, grated cabbage, right? Maybe some grated carrots? At least everything is crunchy. So I'm more or less okay with this salad. Although I have a feeling that it's also customary to add some sort of creamy dressing to it, which of course I am strongly opposed to.

Potato Salad: One time, when I was about 12 years-old, I wandered into the kitchen on a summer's day. No one was home. And I was hungry. There was a bowl sitting on the counter. I didn't know what it was. I don't know why I was drawn to it. I would never try a mystery food and I don't know what was going through my head at the time. I think I must have thought it was something it was not. But I put a piece of it my mouth and was immediately seized by pure terror and disgust. I was entirely immobilized. I couldn't even spit it out right away. I just stood there, rooted to the ground by a kind of extreme horror that I had hitherto never experienced. It was potato salad. I just put potato salad in my mouth. I get so angry when people try to coax me into trying something new because their reasoning is always that even if I don't like it, it will all be over in a second. But they weren't there when I tried that potato salad. They don't know what it's like, and they'll never understand that while that terrible taste did only last a manner of seconds before I spat it out and rinsed my mouth, I have been haunted by that experience ever since. I can't even talk about all the reasons why potato salad is wrong. I just don't want to think about it anymore.

A second post on salads is soon to follow, and its contents may shock and appall you. Just like a pasta-strawberry salad should.

On the dinner table, the salad is ever-present
But its definition is marked by constant deferment.
If I say "salad," what comes to mind?
Lettuce? Tomato? Dressing? A hint of lemon rind?
There's no natural correlation between the word and the thing
And we're left with a problem that is fundamentally Derridian.  
So remember before you sit down to dine
The inevitable gap between the signifier and the sign.  


  1. you might as well stop now. this is the funniest thing anyone has ever written. I just cried, I was laughing so hard.

  2. I'm gonna have salad for dinner.
    Fish salad.


  3. I think you got those last two letters mixed up. It should read "jk," as in, "Joking! No one would ever eat fish salad. That's disgusting."

  4. SAL! Remember when Ollie made me salad and it was just a huge stainless steel mixing bowl full of three heads of quarter chopped heads lettuce and some cherry tomatoes on the bottom. Although this was an awkward salad experience I feel nothing but love and pure joy whenever I'm eating a salad!

    ~Sincerely, I have lettuce in my teeth right now!

  5. Well, I remember when he made himself a substantially larger salad, and then ate both his and the majority of yours... So, yes.