Cooking has been sporadic at best, chez Cookiecrumb, this summer. I don't know why.
Nourishing still happens, but even grubbing for grub at the farmers market has dropped off noticeably. The larder is not as full as usual.
So yesterday I needed to eat. I processed my primitive cravings through the mental menu-o-meter and came up with "Vegetables." But all we had in the house was some local apples, local onions, and some super-super local foraged pickleweed (more on that later).
I think there are a few carrots in the crisper drawer too, and some rapidly aging figs... but I was not in the mood to concoct a meal, however clever (I mean insane) a compote I might have been able to come up with.
So I did something I have never tried before. I went to the salad bar of a nearby grocery store.
I didn't even know how to "work" the salad bar. I stood back and watched the patrons for a few minutes. Seems you just grab one of those clear plastic "clamshell" containers and start filling it with the ingredients of your choice. Help yourself to a napkin and plastic fork. Take it all to the checkout, where it is weighed, and you pay.
This grocery store even has tables and chairs out front, where other patrons were enjoying salads out of plastic clamshells.
How many people, I wonder, believe that "salad" is something you eat out of plastic clamshells?
I made a few rookie mistakes filling my clamshell. Well, I didn't try to completely fill it, which was a smart move. Also, I resisted the heaps of spinach and lettuce, which although they weigh less, bulk-wise, are just green fluff. I was hungry.
In fact, I'm mostly pleased with my choices: Fresh sliced raw mushrooms, chopped hard-cooked eggs, shredded raw carrots, cucumber slices... But the sliced canned beets were so pretty! OK, oops. And that little pile of chopped peperoncini, mmm! Uh-oh, too many. Final boo-boo: The salad dressing.
Dressings at salad bars come in "White" and "Italian." White includes Ranch, blue cheese, and... uh, I think there was a third "white" but I didn't read the label on the ladle. Italian, in this case, was a sweetish, gummy, semi-translucent fluid, and by golly, that's the one I picked.
I'm not saying my choice of dressing was a mistake (although it was). The mistake I'm copping to is slopping too much of it onto the vegetables. That ladle holds too much goop, and I merrily scooped it up and splashed it on. This not only makes for a wet, overdressed salad, but it adds to the weight at the checkout stand. Hell, I could have saved eleven cents and had a better meal if I'd been thinking.
But even though I drowned my salad in — well, I don't know, let's not guess what it was made of — I could still taste the raw vegetables.
They tasted manufactured.
I could taste the flavor of factory farm in my mouth: chemicals.
Eating locally grown food almost exclusively for the past year has so reconditioned my taste buds that there's apparently not enough hideous salad-bar dressing in the world to blot out the flavor of industrial agriculture.
I can no longer shop happily... at the supermarket salad bar.