The Philosophy of Salads

We’re having company over for dinner. Which means spaghetti (keeping it simple), and a huge salad in the style of a certain Italian chain restaurant. The chickweed is long dead, thanks to the Arctic chill that has enveloped our area for the past two weeks. Plus who feeds yard weeds to company? What will people think? Additionally, my “lettuce bowl” attempt for indoor leafy harvests utterly failed too, so I am reduced to buying… yes, you guessed it… bagged lettuce. The horror! The shame! (I grabbed two.)

Next: tomatoes. One display featured tomatoes from Canada; the other, from Mexico. And I wondered, which choice destroys the environment less? The produce from Canada, with a shorter shipping distance but more electricity for heat and light to grow out-of-season tomatoes? Or the harvest from Mexico, closer to the tomato’s natural requirements for warmth and sun, but further to ship to me, the consumer? The conflict! The guilt! (There are no “good” tomatoes in January, so I snagged the three which looked least sad.)
This is a trick question, of course. The “right” answer is that in the piedmont region of Maryland, in January, after two weeks of nighttime lows in the single digits and wind chills well below zero, one does not expect lettuce and tomatoes. They are not native to here and now. They can only be here thanks to the cheap energy that fuels our modern American expectations and consumption habits.
Learn from my folly, dear friends! An equally delicious, much healthier (and much more sustainable) winter salad for company could include:
– cubed, roasted sweet potatoes or butternut squash
– on a bed of torn kale,
– garnished variously with goat’s cheese, pumpkin seeds, thinly sliced red onions, pickled beets, dried cherries, and/or chopped walnuts, and
– dressed with a simple vinaigrette of red wine vinegar, walnut oil, Dijon mustard, a touch of honey and rosemary or other herbs.
All these ingredients could, could, be grown and produced locally to the Mountain/Piedmont regions of Maryland, and preserved in such as way as to be available for eating, even in this brutal weather.

… I hang my head in shame as I slice the tomatoes.

One comment

  1. In my town the “Bushel & Peck” offers an outlet for local farmers in wintertime when the farmers market is closed. The spinach (picked in late December) is very tasty. I don’t remember any goat cheese but I’m not a cheese person… pretty sure they had kale. Surely the Piedmont region of Maryland has similar stores? The Bushel & Peck also has outstanding meat from several local farms and assorted fruits and veggies (besides the spinach) which I can’t recall now.

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