RS: There’s been a mistake. You’ve accidentally given me food that my food eats.
Waiter: Salad is traditionally the first course at a wedding.
RS: Is a gerbil marrying a rabbit?
— Ron Swanson to a Waiter, Parks & Recreation
I heart salad. That is to say, there is nothing like a good one. I have strong beliefs about salad – what can go in one and what should not. Make no mistake; I am highly game to try just about anything. I take risks on greens all the time. Some of them taste terrible. Some of them are too chewy.
All of them are awkward to ingest in front of others.
I don’t care how you like your salad. You could adore anchovies all over the place, paired with some sweet, fully peeled ripe orange slices mixed in with romaine and spinach. That’s cool. Whatever. Go crazy. Add nuts. Tear off bits of baguette; throw ‘em on a cookie sheet, toast ‘em up in the oven – wah la – ya got homemade croutons. Congratulations.
Now take a bite. Load up that fork and dive right in, kids. Oh yeah. You know where I’m going with this, right? There is just no graceful way to eat a salad. And here’s the thing: we are all supposed to be loading up on vegetables about seven times a day. Or something. Or maybe it’s nine. All I know is, it’s a lot.
I’ll just get a salad, you think to yourself, passing on something that is easy to shove into your face like pasta, because you know there are too many carbs and too much fat, and someone you know just had a minor coronary. Well, get ready to unhinge your jaw, because you need to clean that entrée sized salad bowl out like a Labrador retriever. You have about twelve more servings of vegetables to eat today, and you better make good on that lest you die of heart disease. Be sure to get the dressing on the side. Participate in your own health.
Pep talk over.
Now back to business. Some may think salad should not be eaten in public. It’s a horrific mess. And those out there who cut up their salad in public, then try to eat it daintily by taking small bites look ridiculous. They look like picky, weirdly shy diners that like to make a lot of noise with a knife and a fork on a plate that is too small to really move things around anyway. Because, of course they would only order a side salad, because salad is difficult to eat and it takes a long time to cut it all up into neat, bite sized morsels that can be eaten with dignity.
You have to be willing to dive in and have no qualms with the possibility of getting dressing on your face. Hey, you have a napkin. Use it (and it better be waiting for you to use it in your lap, or so help me God…). You have to unload that thing in your brain that makes you care about what other people think. If you are going to fully commit to public salad eating, you have to fully commit to the best way to eat it: with gusto.
Load up your fork. Get a piece of everything, because that is the whole point. The flavors in that bowl are meant to be eaten together. Yes, you can fit a small tomato, a piece of cucumber and some greens all in one bite. Maybe there is a piece of boiled egg white lying on top – and look, you got some bacon bits. Right on (not too many bacon bits – get over yourself).
You can’t be shy. You have to give it over so that you can fulfill that eighteen servings of vegetables a day. Or twenty-five. Or whatever. But you have to enjoy it so that you will keep doing it. Be bold. Mix flavors. Commit.
And if you really cannot stop worrying about what everyone thinks, if you really think that everyone in the restaurant / office lunch room / picnic area / church basement / is staring at you trying to shove that oversized arugula, radicchio wrapped crouton in your mouth, then eat your salad at home.
As long as you get your greens.