This almost-perfect “labeled for noncommercial reuse” salad is completed with the addition of nuts (lower-right).

This pandemic is the worst. THE WORST. Being stuck inside with an obese dog and a round-faced two-year-old was not how I envisaged my summer. I see these social media posts where people are all “Look at how much I’m getting done!” and I just want to go blow their house up.

That being said, I do have to do something other than literally watch Baby Einstein all day. I tried doing that, but couldn’t make the cut.  How much easier would life be as a zombie? Hopes and dreams. Anyways, I decided if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, and started baking sourdough bread. After a few rounds of measuring I remembered how boring baking is, and went back to my usual summer jam, with or without COVID, which is sick summer salads.

When I say sick I mean the colloquial sick, not the literal sick, obviously.  

I used to think that salad was fucking awful. I always liked vegetables, but lettuce just seemed like such pointless mouth moving, all bitter and watery and labor intensive. I’ve got a life to live and love to make, I can’t sit around chewing all day! But then a few years ago, after I had to quit drinking for obvious reasons, my little brother moved in. He was/is accompanied by a million little clinky bottles of tinctures and bitters, and a revoltingly infectious passion for healthy eating. Suddenly, my breakfast of Cheez-its and Sugar Free Red Bull just wasn’t good enough, and the Farmer’s Market was something more than a plague to be avoided. I had to admit, his salad was good. I mean, really good, like I actually wanted to eat it, good. 

These days my brother is making his salads over in Eureka, and I and my snub-nosed tot spend almost all the time in my house in Arcata, hiding from infectious diseases and perfecting salads. I think salads are way more of a valid hobby than freaking sourdough, by the way. 

There are some Basic Principles that should be codified re: salad and I shall attempt to do so here:

  1. The ingredient list may be variable but the most important thing is that it be long. You can’t make a good salad with three ingredients. You can make a good slaw with three but not a salad. A good salad needs like 6 or 7 ingredients, min.

  2. These ingredients need not be all vegetables. In fact, they shouldn’t be. Seeds and/or nuts are vital - more on that shortly - and fruits, flowers, proteins, starches and grains are all excellent, in the correct proportion.

  3. Vegetables should be cooked separately; in fact, all the ingredients should be individually prepared. Again, more on that soon.

  4. The most important criteria is quality of ingredients. I make a very different salad in January than I do in July. Nuts and seeds should be purchased raw and organic and toasted and seasoned at home. Your vegetables and other ingredients should be as fresh and local as possible, ideally grown at home or from a local farm. We live in Humboldt County so we can easily accomplish this. Obviously I am not arguing people in the food deserts of outer Des Moines should feel bad about this.

  5. DRESSING. This is not nearly as big a deal as cookbooks would have us believe. I am a big proponent of good olive oil, one or two vinegars - I like balsamic and apple cider - and a sprinkling each of salt, sugar, and fresh ground pepper. I am totally down with other fancier home-made dressings, I just don’t fuck with that at my house.

Next Time: Making an actual fucking salad.