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America, You’re Doing Salads All Wrong

The nation has been salading incorrectly for far too long, and it’s time someone said something


All of you are salading wrong. I used to think you were outliers, failed kale practitioners that I was inexplicably meeting far too many of. I was sure there was a utopian society of well-adjusted, reasonable salad eaters somewhere. I’d find my people, one day, over a plus-sized bowl of warm spinach.

But, nope. I am the only person in America who eats salad right. It’s a strange flex, I’ll admit. But I know it in my bones. I alone sit on this hill of reason.

Pardon the emotion in my voice, but none of you assholes serve salad in big enough bowls. My wife will pack a salad neatly and tightly into a bowl that is so thoroughly overwhelmed by the task at hand. She’ll pack it so high that the red quarry of cherry tomatoes actually rests above the bowl-line (above!), above the ridge of responsible salading.

I’m sitting in a restaurant in Little Italy when I realize how dire this message has become, how it’s my duty to name it and hopefully put humanity on a better salad path. I ordered some kind of grain-and-greens salad, the sort of thing you eat solely to justify dipping an apple fritter in your bourbon at some undetermined future point. It’s a nutritional offset program. The salad comes expertly packed into what appears to be the perfect-sized vessel.

But that vessel is not perfect, is it?

Because when you try to stick a fork in my wife’s salad and this restaurant’s salad and every salad that’s ever been served in this unholy salad wasteland called America—what happens? A bunch of leafy things liberate themselves, go full Shawshank on the eating experience. It’s like that gag-gift can of snakes, just shooting its contents all over the table.

Butternut squash cubes tumble onto the bread plate, a pile of romaine leaps overboard (god bless all restaurant staff and what it takes to run an operation, but I’ve seen the beleaguered rags we half-heartedly wipe restaurant tables with, and I might prefer to eat sushi directly off a preschool door handle). A crouton leaps into the water glass and just starts absorbin’. Oh, you had the silly notion that you’d like to get a balanced bite, so you try to dig down a bit to harvest multiple ingredients? Congrats on your salad fountain.

Projectiles from outmatched bowls are not the only concern in the salad arts. The other problem is dressing.

We all know dressing on the side is the only way to order. No one calibrates vinaigrette the way you do. Vinaigrette is not a soup, but some kitchens seem to think so.

Or you get the health nut who’s dressing salad between alternate-nostril breaths and gives you a tiny spritz. Your salad is now Flea at a Chili Peppers concert: a tad underdressed. And in order to lightly coat your salad to perfection with the dressing, you need a BIG ASS VESSEL, one the greens can toss and turn in a bit.

So, really, the only sane vessel for a salad is a bowl that is three, four, even five times the size of the contents. It should look like lawn clippings in a moon crater. There should be luxurious, luxurious room to get a little rough-and-tumble with the salad, sift through for the last remaining bacon bit, forage for a candied walnut, or just stab with abandon and not have to worry about collateral damage.

Because for generations, it’s like America has been trying to shove a whole apartment complex into skinny jeans. This isn’t a clown car. It’s a Cobb, for chrissakes.

By Troy Johnson

Troy Johnson is the magazine’s award-winning food writer and humorist, and a long-standing expert on Food Network. His work has been featured on NatGeo, Travel Channel, NPR, and in Food Matters, a textbook of the best American food writing.

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