On Eating Leaves

Some People’s Idea of a Meal

Some People’s Idea of a Meal

Sometimes I feel as if the entire medical profession is ganging up on me to eat salads with or without chicken. To begin with, I am no lover of chicken or turkey, though I like to use their stock in cooking soups.

But I draw the line at what the typical American considers a salad: a bunch of leaves with some goopy dressing. My complaint is not with raw vegetables. In hot weather I make good salads with red and green peppers, celery, onions, garlic, and even a few leaves of red leaf or butter lettuce mixed in. Salads consisting of nothing but leaves, as in “field greens,” I usually leave on my plate untouched. Without a decent crunch, salads come across as limp weeds with no character.

Now certain Middle Eastern salads are more to my liking, such as Shirazi or Israeli salads, with diced tomatoes and cucumbers—and no raw greens. Even Greek salads have some crunch, along with some tasty feta cheese for flavor. But American salads, well ….

I know that “they’re good for you”—but so is a lot of other unpalatable stuff. When I eat, I don’t like to feel that I am grazing in a meadow. (I suspect that most people who eat those all-leaf salads are doing it to make room for rich pastries or chocolates afterwards, when out of sight of one’s friends.)

Do I eat enough vegetables? Yes, indeed! All my dishes include a good mix of veggies. Especially my soups, which usually contain Swiss chard or kale mixed with stock in my blender.



Soup or Salad

So You Think It’s Healthy, Huh?

So You Think It’s Healthy, Huh?

It was Canadian writer Douglas Coupland who wrote that “Salad bars are like a restaurant’s lungs. They soak up the impurities and bacteria in the environment, leaving you with much cleaner air to enjoy.”

We have taken it so much for granted that salads are the perfect food that we typically ignore a few basic facts. First of all, how many of you salad-eaters actually clean the veggies you use, especially the lettuces? And then, how many of you pour sugary, fatty glop over the salad in an effort to make it palatable?

When I was growing up in Cleveland, we never ate salads, except occasionally for a warm salad made with romaine lettuce and bacon—and even then I never cared for the stuff. We had our own vegetable garden out back, so we never lacked for vegetables, which we sometimes ate raw, as tomatoes; or canned, such as Hungarian yellow banana peppers; or cooked, as cabbage.

I think that Hungarians would much rather eat their veggies in a soup than in a salad. So yesterday, I prepared a Hungarian-style pea soup with carrots and potatoes. For that extra Vitamin B touch and some delicious background flavor, I blend Swiss chard and curly parsley with some of the stock and pour it into the tureen.

So go ahead and disconsolately pick at that dubious salad. I prefer good soup just about any time. In fact, only when the temperature soars into the 90s that I will occasionally eat a chopped salad at lunchtime with a light vinaigrette dressing. Otherwise, no way!