A Theory on Salad.

Here is something to ponder… nearly everything we eat is just a variation of salad. When you think of a salad, typically you might consider a tossed semi-homogenous conglomeration of greens, vegetables, perhaps some chicken or ham, the all-important garnishment of cheese, a sauce-based dressing, all topped off with a few croutons. I am sure you are all familiar with that salad - the typical garden salad.

But wait, it is actually more typical than you might think. Substitute cabbage for the greens and broth for the dressing, throw it all in a pot and you will find your self eating cooked salad - though some clever chef once called it minestrone soup and has been taking us all for a ride! Really, it is just boiled salad - so now you know the truth. And what about the croutons, you might ask? When have you ever eaten boiled salad without a kaiser roll or corn muffin?

Another variation: carefully layer the lettuce, tomato, meat and cheese. Spread mayo and/or mustard on the top and bottom of the stack. To facilitate consumption, insert this salad between two layers of bread (which are, in reality, just the croutons in their original form). Some might call this a sandwich - we know it as a "hand salad". Does it not feel great to be enlightened? I know you are not deceived about those so-called "wraps", yup, just a normal salad. Burgers? PBJ? Again, don't get carried away, they are all just another salad.

For lunch I sometimes go to the sandwich shop, sometimes to the soup place next door. I guess it doesn't really matter which one I go to - they are all just the same - salad. Maybe this theory is actually a conspiracy theory - why else would the two restaurants be so close? Hmmm….

Salads can also be baked. Just tonight I took chicken left over from our roasted sans-veggie chicken salad last night, added corn, carrots, cream soup, pasta, and cheese. Baked it in the oven. You might remember the word 'casserole', but if you think about it, isn't it really just a baked salad?

You can also bake a multi-layered hand salad and call it lasagna. Alternatively, smear the tomato dressing on the doughy, flattened croutons, sprinkle the cheese and veggies, and bake. Pizza you say? No way - it is just another boring baked salad. Bet you wouldn't think about tipping the "salad delivery guy" or serving salad at a kid's birthday party. Who ever heard of "salad night" - yeah, that will energize the troops. But pizza? Oh yeah! Do you see the conspiracy yet?

Tacos. Nachos. Burritos. "Yo quiero ensalata?"

The kids are starting school soon. Each day they will wonder what to make for their lunch. I might suggest salad, but they will just turn me down. They are not yet enlightened - little do they know they eat salad all the time. Salad Salad Salad.

Doesn't this make life a bit easier? No need for a sign-up sheet for that potluck. Just ask everyone to bring a salad. That is what they will being anyway - everyone does.

Sometimes we shape the croutons into little oat circles, corn- or rice-based squares, or wheat flakes. Sprinkle a bit of milk, perhaps garnish with honey, and call it a breakfast salad. It doesn't matter if you eat it with a spoon! It is just a salad - for BREAKFAST! In fact, breakfast is notorious for masking salad behind alternate names. I am not just talking about omelets either - that one is quite obvious. Blueberry pancakes with maple syrup? Flattened fried fruit salad with maple dressing. Oatmeal a la snake eyes? Boiled fruit salad.

And speaking of fruit salad - who ever dreamed up such a thing? I guess they couldn't think of something catchy to call it. "What should I call this salad?" "Hmmm…. how about salad?" "Okay." Tonight, we actually had two salads for dinner. The baked salad and a blended fruit salad. At least I got the kids to eat one of them by calling it a smoothie.

How about a nice bowl of chocolate-chip ice cream on a brownie, drizzled with chocolate syrup, garnished with nuts, and topped with a cherry? Wishing you had a salad instead afterwards? Well, you can feel better, because you did! (Once again we see that "syrup" is masquerading for "dressing".)

The Chinese are perhaps the most clever when it comes to masking a salad behind an attractive name and making a profit. Kung Pow Chicken. Beef and broccoli. Chicken with cashews. Stir fried rice. Salad. Salad. Salad. Salad.

I hope this doesn't destroy your culinary enjoyment. If you like salad, then you should be really happy. And who doesn't? There are enough varieties afterall. Besides, you will always have an answer to the timeless question: "What's for dinner?" Yeah, salad. "Again? Yummy!" They will catch on pretty quick.

However, be careful when you visit a restaurant. They aren't there to please your appetite - they only want money - YOUR money. They know about salads, and they know how to sell them. When the waiter asks if you want a salad with your meal - you will know he is just trying to get more money out of you. You can call him on it, and show your own cleverness by replying, "No thanks. Wouldn't that just be redundant?" I don't think he will have much of a response and will start to wonder how much you will tip him. At the end of the meal he will try to sell you a desert. With a wink and a subtle nod just say, "No thanks. I just had a salad." He will, of course, recall that you didn't order a "typical" salad earlier and look at your plate of half-eaten baked salad and the empty bowl that once held your boiled salad. He may then try to play dumb in a last-ditch effort to sell you more salad.

Don't fall for it. But do tip him nice, he is just trying to put salad on the table to feed his kids.