Saturday, March 14, 2009

I’ll Take The Fork-Stabbing Kind, Please

I’ve been eating a lot of lettuce salads lately...partly because I’m a big fan of the salad bar, and partly because I’m getting to that age where too many subs and Big Macs and pizzas tend to catch up to you and stick around a while if you don’t do something about it.

(Confession: I really reached that age several years ago, and have seen the noticeable effects, but it sounds better in this story if I tell it as though I’m just discovering it now.)

Even when I visit a top-notch buffet...which, I um, haven’t done in a few months, and don’t intend to do for at least a few more matter what spectacular meat and vegetable entrĂ©es await me, I always appreciate a well-stocked salad bar and start my meal with a plate of lettuce and a multitude of fixin’s and dressings.

In the past year or so, I’ve become addicted to the grocery store salad bar, with its containers so big and ingredients so numerous that you can get carried away with three or four different kinds of meats and peppers and mushrooms and tomatoes and baby corns and eggs and bacon bits and olives and cheeses and onions and carrots and top it all off with sunflower seeds and sesame sticks and croutons and...whew! before you know it your “healthful” meal weighs about six pounds and costs as much as your monthly electric bill.

It’s easy to go overboard with all those choices, and lately I’ve been trying to avoid putting three or four or nine scoops of bacon bits and two or three entire eggs on my salads.

Although the salads may be a bit costly per pound, it’s impossible to argue against their convenience, because to buy all of those ingredients separately would involve a bank loan and a co-signer, not to mention hours of cleaning and chopping and slicing and dicing, and an extra shelf in the fridge to store them all, when instead it’s all laid out for you right there in the grocery store.

Lettuce_IcebergMost of the salad bars have two or three different kinds of greens to choose from, and here’s where I get picky. I always always always go for the plain-Jane iceberg lettuce as the foundation for my salad creations.

I know the Martha Stewart-esque salads these days are built upon spinach leaves or some other kind of leaf lettuce variety, and have cranberries or almonds or grapes or mandarin oranges, and are spritzed with a flavored vinaigrette.

But those kinds of salads can be annoying, if only because it’s nearly impossible to remember how to spell “vinaigrette” without having to look it up in the dictionary.

My rule is: If you can’t stab it with a fork, then please bring me a different kind of lettuce salad. I don’t want to have to slip under a flimsy leaf with a spatula just to get it off of my plate.

And French. Thousand Island. Zesty Italian. Sometimes a combination of two or all three of these. If you wish to shake a bit of red wine vinegar over your mountainous lettuce salad, go for it. But leave the vinaigrettes for the Scripps National Spelling Bee, thank you very much.

I’m convinced, lettuce salads are more fun to top than pizzas.

And almost as healthful. Almost.

“Lettuce is like conversation; it must be
fresh and crisp, so sparkling that you
scarcely notice the bitter in it.”
—Charles Dudley Warner

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Stand By For News!

I first learned of Paul Harvey about 17 years ago when I worked for a carpenter who would always time our lunch breaks around Harvey's radio broadcasts.

The saws would stop and the hammers would go back in the tool belts, and my boss would say, "Paul's on." It was never, "Lunch time," or "Take a break." Always..."Paul's on."

And as soon as his 15-minute broadcast was over, with his trademark, "Pauuul Harvey. Good day!", so was our lunch break, and it was back to pounding nails.

Harvey was unique. From the way in which he'd pronounce syllables in certain words to the product ads he'd read during his broadcast to the eclectic angles he'd find from which to tell a story. He was opinionated, and those opinions rarely coincided with my own. But he was still a fun listen.

I didn't work for that builder for very long, and soon after that job, my lunch breaks had more and more minutes in them and less and less of Paul Harvey. But over the years I still found myself taking my hand off the radio dial if I ever heard his distinct voice as I was buzzing around the stations.

Paul Harvey died on Saturday at the age of 90, news that spread quickly around the interwebs and Twitter. He'd trimmed his broadcast schedule in recent years, but reports say that he was broadcasting a week before he died.

So no more searching around the radio dial for his familiar opening: "Hello Americans! This is Paul Harvey. Stand by for news!!"

Good day, Mr. Harvey.
Good day.

"In times like these, it is helpful
to remember that there have
always been times like these."
—Paul Harvey