Salad is an everyday event here. Sometimes just chopped up fresh vegetables or tiny leaves of garden kale passed off as lettuce, but most often a green salad in a favorite bowl – exactly the right size for generous portions for two people.
But now I need a salad for six, to fill a large green bowl made by an Alaska potter. Setting about the job, it occurs to me that while he would approve of the bowl, William Morris would be disappointed by my salad tools. Morris, 19th century artist and craftsman, advised to have nothing in your house “that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”
For years we used the companions to a wooden salad bowl wedding gift, which eventually delaminated along the seams. When we came here I enthusiastically bought salad tools carved by a local woodworker from fruitwood. They show the marks of handmade and look sturdy, but one of the fork tines broke leaving an uneasy feeling. (We also have a silvery set that came with some temporary tableware – serviceable but dull.)
Since we so often take salads to one another’s meals (such a treat to eat an interesting salad prepared by someone else – equally fine to just make salad and get a great dinner), I notice people’s salad tools – ones both beautiful and useful – delicate small utensils with carved handles, a large wide pair like bear paws, or salad tongs aged with history or sentiment for the owner.
We celebrate spring with plentiful, fresh local greens and the peppery taste of cabbage raab. Vegetables added to salads vary by season (sometimes tomatoes, sometimes beets). My clever friend recently transported salad additions (apples and avocados) – what her family calls sinkers (and another friend’s husband calls atrocities) – right in the jar of salad dressing, marinating and keeping them fresh.
Some people find adding fruit to salad an anathema, but my old friend taught me to add her trademark orange segments. A row of Washington pears waits on my kitchen windowsill and, after squeezing their shoulders to determine ripeness, I slice them into the salad. Or blueberries – a handful from the freezer – thawed by the time we eat.
And no salad can go to dinner without dressing. In the past I’ve been guilty of cavalierly dumping a little balsamic vinegar into a larger quantity of olive oil, adding some dried herbs and calling it good. Lately (born of enjoying so many guests’ delicious dressings, including one always brought by a young mother to Thanksgiving), I pay more attention and add enlivening ingredients – perhaps a little maple syrup and a minced shallot.
No nuts in our everyday salad (usually we’ve consumed quite a handful already with pre-dinner olives and almonds), but tasty roasted nuts or a little Gorgonzola make a salad special.
When served with everyday tools, or better yet, with a just received, perfect gift of salad tossers!