Salad Days - 27 East

Salad Days


Tilting at Windmills

  • Publication: East Hampton Press
  • Published on: Sep 28, 2023
  • Columnist: Tracy Grathwohl

Whenever I make a salad, I have only one thought: I hate the salad spinner.

I hate cutting up the lettuce and putting it in the salad spinner. I hate rinsing the lettuce in the plastic colander. I hate pulling the stupid little string to spin the salad. I hate how often our salad spinner lid falls apart when I pull the stupid little string. I hate having to repair it to continue spinning the salad.

I hate picking off the tiny bits of lettuce when I clean the plastic colander. I hate the amount of space the salad spinner takes on my drain board. I hate that I can’t reach the cabinet where we keep the salad spinner. Mostly, I hate that I rinse, I spin, but the lettuce is neither clean nor dry.

If I made a list of the things I hate most in this world, it would be genocide, racism, poverty, misogyny, and our salad spinner.

Still, if I’m making a salad, I reach for this frail, dreadful device, fix the lid — again — and start spinning, because Mr. Hockey gets skeeved by unwashed lettuce.

I’m nice that way.

Mr. Hockey hates chopping scallions. He hates cutting the stringy roots off. He hates the worn-out green bits. He hates peeling off the dead outside layers, one scallion at a time. He hates that scallions aren’t as simple as onions.

I bet if Mr. Hockey were to make a list of things he hates, it would include genocide, racism, poverty, misogyny, unwashed lettuce, and chopping scallions.

Yet, he will peel off those dead layers, because I like scallions.

Mr. Hockey is nice that way, too.

Our salads are basic. They consist of romaine or iceberg lettuce, chopped onion or scallions, and maybe some cucumber. Our dressing is vegetable oil and distilled white vinegar, with a little sugar and salt. Our salads are pale. They are the Wonder Bread of salads.

When all the hockey pucks were home during the COVID pandemic, they called our salads lame. They like salads with exotic greens, such as arugula, endive or kale.

The pucks’ salads also have swanky additions like roasted chickpeas, walnuts or pumpkin seeds. And no humdrum dressings. Theirs include honey and spicy gojuchang paste, or sriracha sauce, or chili crisp. They’re the everything bagel of salads.

One of the hockey sticks has taken to calling our milquetoast greens “The House Salad.”

Hold up! Did I say hockey stick?

Yes! I’m introducing new characters to the “Tilting at Windmill” universe: the hockey sticks.

All the hockey pucks have significant others right now. I’ve struggled to come up with an appropriate pseudonym for these lovely people who didn’t ask to be thrown into the spotlight of their partner’s mother’s world-renowned column.

Like vegetable oil and distilled white vinegar, sticks and pucks go together. So, I’m sticking with sticks.

Now, back to my soon-to-be world-renowned treatise on salads …

When one of the visiting hockey sticks asks if we are serving The House Salad, I immediately toss the salad duties, along with the bedeviled spinner, over to them. They will produce a wonderful medley involving faro and a buttermilk Parmesan dressing.

Those puck/stick salads are yummy. Yet, once the hockey equipment heads home, Mr. Hockey and I return to making salads like 1950s housewives who’ve never seen a vinaigrette, avocado oil or kale.

I haven’t mentioned tomatoes. I love them. I love them like I love world peace, chocolate ice cream and Mr. Hockey. But I would argue that they don’t always belong in a tossed salad.

Summer tomatoes, especially Long Island tomatoes, and more particularly East End tomatoes, are delectable on their own, maybe with some salt. There’s no need to sully them with the flavors of pumpkin seeds, champagne vinegar, or even my favorite, iceberg lettuce.

Winter tomatoes are disgusting and should never go into a salad. I hate them. I hate their light red color. I hate their tough skins. I hate their lack of flavor.

My hate for a winter tomato is not the same as my salad spinner hate. I hate winter tomatoes the way I hate dresses without pockets, the music played while on hold with customer service, or the struggle with writing your name in ballpoint pen on those urine specimen jars in a gynecologist’s bathroom. Grathwohl has nine letters. Please. Give me a Sharpie and a label I can stick on the jar myself.

We stupidly planted a garden and are overrun with tomatoes right now. We’ve made everything you can possibly think of: salsa, marinara, bruschetta, tarts. We’ve tried giving them away. I was planning to give a few to a recent house guest, but she brought her own tomatoes as a hostess gift.

This is the problem with gardens: You have to eat what you grow. That was fine when all the pucks were living here during COVID, or when they bring the sticks for the weekend, or when we have house guests. Now it’s just me and Mr. Hockey, and I’m frightened every time he returns from the garden with a full colander.

Thank goodness we didn’t plant zucchini.

Next year, we’ll plant fewer tomatoes. You can bet we won’t plant any butter lettuce, arugula, or, obviously, kale. I don’t want to have to clean it.

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it, but I really hate our salad spinner …

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