I am feeling verklempt. When you leave a job after nine years, it’s kind of like a divorce. As much as you wanted out, it doesn’t mean you won’t miss the S.O.B. and his money. I’m sad that I won’t see all my cubicled compadres with whom I laughed, cried and raged against the machine. But as painful as it is to let them go, there are others that I will miss even more. The ones who told me that they only wanted what's best for me. Who provided support and sustenance so I'd make it through the day. And not only gave me something to look forward to, but put a little spring, summer or fall into my step. Yes, I will miss the salads that I lovingly fashioned for lunch. Those ornate showstoppers that I chowed down on between the prefab walls of a corporate cube.
I groomed greens like they were CEOs—dressed for success and off to conquer the working world via a pyrex bowl and plastic blue lid. With a tailor-made vinaigrette for each colorful ensemble, I had the best-dressed salads in the whole damn office. Truth be told, I spent more time dressing my salads than myself. While I adore fashionista farmers, I'm not much of a fashionista. Maybe if I could buy Juicy Couture at the farmers’ market, I'd be more of a fashion plate. But having to go to a mall with a Hot Dog On A Stick? I'd rather wear a potato sack. Yet even when my wardrobe was stale, my bowl always sported something fresh and in season. My legs may have been stuck in bellbottoms, but my lunches were all skinny jeans. Below are some random shots I happened to take of them with my phone.
1. Marinated French green lentils with kalamata olives, sundried tomatoes, artichokes and thyme on beet greens with avocado, carrots and golden raisins with a Dijon shallot vinaigrette
2. Oyster mushrooms sauteéd with shallots in olive oil, nestled with roasted butternut squash and carrots on mustard greens, arugula, kale and cilantro with an apple cider vinaigrette
3. White beans, radishes, carrots, celery and yellow peppers on arugula and baby purple kale with a white balsamic and roasted garlic vinaigrette
Gone are my ritualistic Sundays when I’d hit the local farmers’ market and then hurry home to wash, spin and store my greens for the week. And then came the side salads that I’d prepare from grains or legumes to beets or roasted veggies, along with my five-day supply of vinaigrette. Sure, now I can make them on demand, in real time and not have to spend half a day at it. But it was the discipline of doing it each Sunday that rewarded my heroic efforts with quality assurance and portion control for the next five days.
4. Beets, cucumbers and dill with a white wine Dijon shallot vinaigrette
5. Black-eyed peas, blood oranges, avocado and cilantro over hand-selected greens with an orange and pomegranate molasses vinaigrette
6. Orange cauliflower and black beans with red cabbage, red onions, carrots, yellow peppers, celery and cilantro with a cumin and lime vinaigrette
When you’re an ad writer, sometimes you feel like a line cook in a kitchen full of Gordon Ramsays. You're there to crank things out and to serve others. You don't always get to plan the menu or be a tastemaker. Maybe a salad is the only thing you have creative control over in your whole day. It’s your own content that doesn’t have to please anyone higher on the food chain. A single serving for yourself—not for the firm, but from the farm—that is not open to negotiation.
7. Alaskan salmon, white beans, black olive tapenade, capers, parsley and tomatoes
8. Beets, oranges, quinoa and chives with an orange muscat champagne vinaigrette
9. Lentil and brown rice salad with dill, mint, mixed olives, celery, carrots, radishes and onion on lolla rossa and baby green kale with an apple cider Dijon vinaigrette
Before you know it, tomato, corn and fig season will be here. I hope by then I'll have discovered fertile, new ground. Something that feels right and real and meaningful, full of perennial possibilities. And when that day comes, I know my salad bowl will be dressed to the nines.