April 26th, 2011eating
I hate salad. Mostly, I hate the idea of it. I love Caesar salad, especially with Litehouse dressing on it, before my meal. But usually, the idea of a “good salad” is bound to piss me off. To me, there’s nothing good about some perfectly lovely lettuce drenched in vinegar (the smell of which has revolted me my entire life–I’d rather stick my face in my cat’s litter box than smell vinegar), with some crumbles of blue cheese (not gluten-free, by the way) and dried cranberries to make an otherwise boring plate of random “healthy” stuff into what Lululemon-clad housewives from my neighborhood would call “a really good salad.”
Even when the vinegar is replaced by lemon, and some meat is added to make the pile of leaves nutritionally substantive, I think salads are overrated. A major component of their supposed goodness is the health factor, which, when the salad is eaten in the presence of another person, brings shame to the table. Salad is the universal code word for “no matter what, this is good for you” (though people are now pretty aware of the fact that Taco Bell salads are bound to be trouble), but some of us believe that a pork-stuffed chicken breast wrapped in bacon is another healthy choice. (Seriously, I lost 20 pounds eating stuff like this, and I only gained it back when I started shoving slices of Wonder Break down my gullet.) I don’t believe that my aorta will be lined with putty by the time I rise from the table if I eat saturated fat, because I’m not down with the conventional wisdom. Now that I’m gluten-free, I can’t usually eat cake, so I’m no longer ever in a situation in which I want more cake than the tiny sliver that’s doled out for me by someone who assumes I’m interested in a modest piece, so that source of shame is gone, but I still often have the feeling that I’m supposed to be eating salad if I want to do what’s good for me.
I know I’m the weird one for hating vinegar. I try to imagine someone disliking cilantro (which many do, I know), and I know that vinegar is something most people enjoy, but there isn’t shame attached with thinking cilantro tastes like dish soap–and there’s certainly no shame to a distaste for cilantro like the shame I feel eating a huge plate of mac and cheese in front of someone who’s eating a plate of spinach with vinaigrette on the side, dunking every leaf into the oil and shaking it off for minimum fat consumption.
Why do I care? I’ve just always cared. Eating is social.
If I eat a green salad with pecans, gorgonzola, and balsamic, I am communicating that I am working on bettering myself through healthy eating. If I eat the chicken-bacon thing, I am communicating that I don’t care that I’m a gross, fat slob because I am very excited about eating saturated fat. I have friends who really, genuinely do love a good salad. To each her own. This rant is about my own guilt, and this rant is about salad for show. Researchers recently found that the women in their study chose foods with significantly fewer calories when in the presence of men.
Why do I care? Because I’ve always had this feeling that if I could just eat some salad, I’d fix my eating.
I rarely see men eat salad, either in advertising or real life, so the photos of women eating salad and smiling that recently appeared on The Hairpin looked familiar. And creepy. These women are very happy. They are thin, and they stick their necks out and tilt their chins up so that we can see how thin and happy they are as they eat their salads. They are happy because they are making healthy life choices. They aren’t laughing because the salads are particularly funny; they are laughing the laugh of a person who is just loving life so much that her smile becomes a grin, and the grin has nowhere to grow to but a laugh.
When I go to a restaurant, a salad is probably the last entree I’ll crave, but now that I’m gluten-free, I have to consider them more often. When I went on a vacation to Vancouver for a weekend in February, I worried about eating at restaurants in which contamination was possible, and about asking every waiter whether a dish was completely gluten-free. My first meal there took place at a restaurant named Joey’s. When I told the waitress that I needed gluten-free food, she brought me a special menu. I ended up ordering a salad with seared albacore. When it arrived, despite myself, I smiled a lot. True, I was ravenous two hours later, and I’m probably never going to be a salad convert, but eating a meal that I could be absolutely sure was gluten-free was worth the pain of thinking of myself as a person eating a salad. I figure the long line of Crown-and-gingers I knocked back helped me maintain my unhealthy image, even when I was grinning like an idiot while directing a piece of rabbit food toward my face.Tags: healthy eating, whiskey