Salad: just a load of leaves, really... | Jack Marshall's column
For as long as I’ve known her (and even, miraculously, before that), my mum has been a vegetarian. Has been since the age of about nine. When I was five, I once saw another woman eating meat, which frazzled my tiny brain - in my world, all women were vegetarians.
As an enthusiastic and dedicated vegetarian by choice, my mum genuinely and unironically enjoys things that other eaters of food would consider mere leafy side-dishes to sit next to their meat, if they even considered them at all, that is.
The humble salad, for example.
My mum loves a good salad, a concept I once considered oxymoronic. Salads just didn’t have the heft, the chewability, the mouth-oomph to truly satisfy hunger. There’s a reason salads are in the ‘light bites’ bit on a menu and a reason why no hungry person orders from that bit, too.
But I stand before you a reformed man. It’s my brother’s fault. Out of a powerful desire not to have to exercise (and out of an even more powerful desire not to spelunk deeper into his cavernous overdraft), he has been eating more healthily and cheaply. To wit: the humble salad.
He said he’d eaten a salad. I laughed at his funny, funny joke. He laughed too. Then said, ‘no, really’. I was confused. We sat in silence for a while.
The trick, he said, was to insert something non-salad into the salad. Tuna. Chicken. Feta cheese, even. Something more than leaves, which are like 100% water, or something. In a manic fit of whimsy, I decided to follow his lead.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those overpoweringly obnoxious meat-eaters who thinks vegans are beta soy-boys and misses no chance to say so - someone who can’t defecate due to a lack of fibre in their diet (hashtag ‘destroying your colon to own the libs’).
In fact, I was even a vegetarian for a while. But, even then, salads remained an overpoweringly unconvincing culinary option. So I decided on chicken. Chicken marinated four different ways - teriyaki, lemon, barbecue, and Cajun - to see which worked best on the leaf.
None of them were bad. None of them were even half-bad. In fact, not one fraction of them was bad at all; they were all quite good. Yes, I know I’ve just discovered the concept of a chicken salad which doesn’t exactly make me Heston Blumenthal, but this is big.
And so I stand before you a card-carrying salad-eater. Consider me converted.