20-year-old me wouldn’t believe how much salad I eat.
Then again, 20-year-old me wouldn’t believe how much pizza and fried chicken I eat. I know plenty of people who can plow through rich foods as if their arteries piped butterfat, but my body needs fairly regular breaks from outrageous eating in order to persist in high-level functions like dealing with professionally menial busywork, ungraciously murdering free time on a Lord of the Rings card game web site, and putting off exercise.
The need for salad days isn’t just about physiological defense. Eating with food blogging on the mind is genuinely tiring, especially when said food blogging is not going to pay the bills. On days when my work schedule won’t possibly allow me to go on a food expedition or even take a real lunch break, I turn to salad. I may worship Dave Cook and Jonathan Gold in their endless pursuit of the next great meal, but I’m hardly paid to write about food, let alone take two hours to wander around neighborhoods hoping to try the new best goat curry of my lifetime.
On some days I just don’t give a shit about what I’m missing out in the New York foodscape. On some days I don’t give a shit that I won’t have my chance to write about pupusas, soul food or xiaolongbao. On some days I just need to eat a salad and move on.
But that doesn’t mean I have to not give a shit about the salad.
This is where the Whole Foods salad bar steps forward to turn the low point of an overworked day into a modicum of leafy, green self-respect. For some reason I can’t make a good salad at home to save my ass, but after two years of working the Whole Foods salad bar as a man who would be damned to drop just as much money at a salad bar as he would at a Thai restaurant in Queens, I’ve become the master of this motherfucker.
My routine has been quantified by the New York Times: Go straight for the mesclun greens. Avoid the dead weight of romaine lettuce, the temptation of unnecessary meats, and the wallet-sinking treasure of grape tomatoes and anything cubic. Add shredded beets for flavor and texture, not for volume. Always throw in a handful nuts and dried cranberries. And stock your own balsamic vinegar, because the sour sting of Whole Foods’ faux-balsamic blend is impossible to digest on a regular basis.
As long as I follow these rules, I can stuff as much salad as I could possibly eat in one sitting into a single takeaway box and walk away with $5.50 of minimized regret. And on this particular salad day, I’ve also walked away with a blog post.
I could have also walked away with a joke about tossing salads, but this is supposed to be a story about redeeming value. May your salad days be so satisfactory.