Laurie usually makes her own salad dressing, and she buys salad ingredients at a local farmer’s market where the selection is always fresh and interesting. I enjoy following her around as she makes her selections — a mysterious activity, like watching a sorceress choose ingredients for her spells. Many of the items she buys for salad include greens that 1) I had never heard of before we met and 2) look as if somebody picked them from among the weeds in an empty lot.Many of the green rags of leafy things seem to be related to the hot thistles that Eeyore eats in the Winnie the Pooh books. Other leaves have a milder flavor but may still have an unusual texture — unusual to me, anyway.
Which is not to say I don’t enjoy Laurie’s salads. I’ve gotten used to them over time and often, particularly at the end of a hot summer day, even look forward to them. It’s just that I was brought up eating salads made mostly with iceberg lettuce and dressed with a viscous orange fluid labeled “French dressing” that came straight from a bottle.
Laurie has nothing but contempt for iceberg lettuce, and it rarely graces our table. According to her, it is without flavor or nutritional value or any other interesting attribute. I miss it sometimes, but I find I can satisfy my jones at the mid-range restaurants where Laurie and I occasionally have a meal. At these places a handful of shredded carrots and a few dry croutons serve to enhance the bowl of chopped greens they optimistically call salad; the greens are usually the iceberg of my youth. I enjoy these mid-range salads as exercises in nostalgia, but the truth is, after eating Laurie’s version of a salad, I usually find them pretty dull.
Sometimes a restaurant that has pretensions to being slightly higher than mid-range will perk up a thick wedge of iceberg lettuce with a cup or two of blue cheese or Thousand Island dressing, and then sprinkle cheese or bacon bits — in the really classy places you sometimes get both — over the whole mélange. Such a salad must be carved with a knife and fork, which can be fun.
Eating Laurie’s food is always a wonderful experience, and it is often educational as well. This is certainly the case with her salads. Though I do sometimes wish she would bend her mighty culinary imagination to seeing what she could do with the lowly iceberg.