Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Your favorite food is… lettuce?

“Your favorite food is… lettuce?”

I dread the unavoidable question, “What is your favorite food?” While the most common answers include some sort of chicken, a pasta dish or the always-popular pizza, I hesitate to say that I often scribble the word “salad” when I come across this question on any survey. Now, I know what you’re thinking. You can tell so much about a person from what their “favorite” things are. Whether it is food, music, or academic subject, while trying to get to know someone these types of questions are the ones people ask first. So, when I voice that the food I enjoy the most is a mixture of raw vegetables, I usually get some puzzled looks automatically wondering if I am (a) a vegetarian (b) a freakishly health conscious individual or (c) just a really bland person. Well, the answer to that question is none of the above. Yes, I often run for the salad bar in a dining hall (and not only because this is sometimes the safest choice), but I could not imagine not eating meat, I am no more concerned with my weight than the next person and I happen to think that I’m far from ordinary. Yet, the frequency of which I consume salad has given me a bad rap.

However, out of all foods, salad allows a person to express him or herself more than any other. The possibilities for how to create your own salad are endless if you think far beyond the standard lettuce, tomato and cucumber combination often used as an appetizer for the more flavorful meal to follow. Skeptics, especially the male ones who find their masculinity threatened by the idea of a salad as a meal, should start at a place like Sweetgreen, located ironically right next to Chipotle and Bobby’s Burger Palace on Walnut Street (so, if your stomach is really aching for a burrito or a burger after a salad, you’re in the right place, though I can almost guarantee it won’t be). There, you’ll find tasty and unique options from “Guacamole Greens,” a mixture of mesclun lettuce, roasted shrimp or chicken, avocado, grape tomatoes, red onion, crushed tortilla chips and drizzled with lime cilantro jalapeño vinaigrette dressing or their “Chic P” salad which is baked falafel, chickpeas, cucumber, peppers, and pita chips topped with a lemon hummus tahini dressing over baby spinach leaves. Once you have graduated from the options already created for you, Sweetgreen allows you to combine all the vegetables, meat, and crunchy topping you desire to build a salad that caters to whatever you’re in the mood for at that very moment. Though a little overpriced, it is places like Sweetgreen that prove that it is OK to like salad as much as I do. I’ve learned to embrace the quizzical glances as I joyously dive into sweet corn, plump red grapes, carrots, dried cranberries and toasted walnuts over baby arugula and keep quite as my eating habits are constantly questioned. Those who have labeled salad as boring or to be only consumed while on a diet are sadly mistaken. There needn’t be anything painful about eating lettuce, you just need to know mix it up a little.

-- Xandria James

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