A few days ago, my friend Shannon and I went to lunch. In an attempt to change our ways and counterbalance the sugar-laden excesses of the holidays, we ordered salads.
When the waiter brought them to the table, we marveled at the Olympic-size salad bowls. Even during lunch, a salad is a big event in modern America. Do restaurants give us huge salads because they feel sorry for us? Or do they give us an entire field of greens because they need an excuse to charge the same amount we’d pay if we were having a plate full of pork chops? (Something tells me it’s the second reason, but that’s not the point.)
The point is that these super-sized salads have become a workout. Ten minutes after my horse-sized salad arrived, I was still trying to cut it up into manageable pieces. While the salad makers are more than generous with quantity, they totally ignore what most people deem an appropriate bite size. I’d have to unhinge my jaw to eat these salads without cutting them up first.
No one wants to have a large piece of greenery dangling from her mouth while trying to enjoy lunch conversation. I don’t want a stranger at a restaurant to perform the Heimlich maneuver on me because of a dangerously large bite of salad.
So I cut and cut and cut some more until the giant lettuce leaves and grilled chicken pieces were a more suitable fork-size. Then I distributed the little cup of dressing across the vast sea of salad, trying to do demure dabs instead of gluttonous globs.
By the time the salad was finally ready to eat, I was exhausted. All that pre-meal prep work causes a condition I call “salad fatigue.” At that point, I didn’t know what I needed most – a meal or a nap.
It’s no wonder restaurants pair soup and salad together as a combo. By the time you’ve wrestled your unwieldy salad into submission, you only have enough energy left to sip soup out of a spoon. A half-hearted slurp is all you can muster.
Of course, the cure for salad fatigue is often right under my nose. It’s that beguiling basket of bread that waiters bring to the table. If I carbo-loaded with the free dinner rolls, I’d probably have the energy of a knife-wielding ninja, able to slice up a salad before you can say balsamic vinaigrette.
But then again… carbo-loading cancels out the benefits of eating a salad in the first place, so what’s the point? I might as well order the plate of pork chops.
Speaking of chops, a “chopped salad” would really settle this issue once and for all. A chopped salad would have all the benefits of healthy eating and none of the work. But it’s rare to find a chopped salad on the menu these days, probably because the prep cooks in the kitchen get salad fatigue, too.
Some prep cooks are so tired that they can’t even be bothered to tear the leaves off the head of iceberg lettuce. They just slice off a large chunk, slap it on a plate, douse it with dressing, blue cheese crumbles, onion and bacon bits and call it a “wedge salad.”
Don’t get me wrong. I love a wedge salad – mainly because what it lacks in chopping it more than makes up for in the amount of goodies piled on top. The wedge is mainly just a vehicle for the delivery of salad dressing, cheese and bacon, which is why I’ve yet to meet a wedge I didn’t want.
But for now, while I’m trying to honor my good intentions from New Year’s Day, all I want is a salad that doesn’t wear me out. I want to have lunch, not a chore. Life is tiring enough without suffering through another case of salad fatigue.
Gwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of nwaMotherlode.com. To read previously published installments of The Rockwood Files, click here. To check out Gwen’s book, “Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile: The Rockwood Files Collection,” click HERE.