I remember the salad dressing that my mother usually made for the family. It was very simple. The fresh cold pressed virgin olive oil from Lebanon, a squeeze of fresh half a lemon, a pinch of fresh mint, salt and pepper and there it was. And our salads at the time, it seems like a lifetime ago, consisted of fresh crunchy green salad, delicious fresh tomatoes and crunchy small cucumbers, and spring onions! Preparing salad was quick, simple, tasty, fresh and super healthy. Fresh salad was a part of our daily diet. The small cucumbers were so delicious we ate them like a fruit. My most favorite as a child was a sandwich of feta cheese with pitta bread and a cucumber.
Years later in the western world, I discovered all the prepared salad sauces, in England it was Heinz salad that was a thick mayonaisy creamy texture and I developed a taste for that for a while. In Switzerland I developed a taste for the creamy thick salad sauce they love to serve here, still today. Italians love the vinegar instead of lemon especially the balsamico. Today when I go shopping to the supermarket, it’s mind boggling for me to see the variety of pre-prepared salad sauces available and I wonder how healthy that is, considering that in order to stay fresh for so long in the bottle on the shelf, a lot of additives have to be added.
I have an Australian friend who prepares his salad sauce in quantity and stores it in his fridge for the week. The ingredients are olive oil, vinegar, mustard, mayonnaise, dry herbs, salt, pepper and crème! It tastes good I have to admit and I tried that for a few weeks myself but I gave it up because I couldn’t stand eating the same salad sauce the whole week through! Another Hungarian friend does an interesting fresh sauce, she adds sunflower seeds, courgette seeds, walnuts, to the olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper, which is very much to my taste. A French girlfriend would put her salad leaves in a cloth bag and shake it so all the water would drop out of the salad leaves, which end up dry limp and not so crunchy! My daughter who is married to a French Swiss, has a little plastic container where she puts the salad in and pulls a cord to strain out the water out of the salad. The salad leaves don’t suffer as much, so that’s OK if you worry about a few drops of water on your salad. I couldn’t be bothered frankly.
My niece, in her teens at the time, came to spend a few days with us. When she saw me preparing the salad sauce she was horrified, she refused to eat it saying that her mother made one type of salad sauce only, always the same and she can’t eat anything else. She grew up to change her mind about that. Some people try to experiment with different kinds of salad sauces. I belong to this category. I love variety in life. So sometimes it’s with mustard, sometimes perhaps with mayonnaise, other times with crème, sometimes with apple vinegar, which I’m told is very healthy, sometimes with balsamico which tastes delicious, but most of the time with fresh lemons. I like to add a variety of nuts, sometimes even raisins or cranberries. If the sauce is too thick and I don’t want to add oil or vinegar or lemon, I add a little apple cider or even a teaspoon of water. I always feel guilty when I do that, a flash goes through my head of my French friends who go to so much trouble to strain the water from the salad leaves.
My salads have become more creative and rich since I eat a lot of fresh vegis, so really speaking my salad plate now consists of raw vegis too, like avocado, broccholi, courgette, celery, fennel, cauliflower, cabbage, carrots, beans and any green vegis that I can get fresh and crunchy with plenty of nuts. Sometimes I add fruits like grapes, pineapple or apples. The mix always depends on what I have in the fridge and what is available of the season. Now and again when I have a freshly cooked warm meal, mostly baked or broiled vegis or fish, I go back to the original salad that I love best, like my mother made it, quick and simple.
Variety is the spice of life and the Creator loves variety. Is your life full of variety? It would be interesting for you to be aware of what you’re eating, what kind of salad sauce and what is really in the ingredients. Is it healthy, and is it good for you? We so often get into the habit of doing things automatically and we go through half of our life being unconscious. Ask yourself how conscious are you of what you are eating. That would be a good beginning to become aware of your eating habits.
Amongst many other activities Margo also enjoys cooking. She loves to experiment and she loves variety, always simple, uncomplicated, fresh and quick is her motto. she likes to put together simple and fast menus like Jamie Oliver, the young and famous English cook who tried to change food habits in the schools of America! As far as I can remember he failed because pizzas, french fries and pasta reappeared on the menu for the school kids by popular demand, soon after he left. The very things he wanted to banish, unhealthy foods!
I’m obviously feeling nostalgic. I feel guilty because I remember in a clearing out frenzy some years ago throwing away my cook book, hand written in Arabic, over the span of 20 years, with recipes from my mother’s kitchen. I used to call her on the phone, she lived in London and I in Zurich, and she would give me the recipe over the phone and instructions on how to do what. My young husband used to be horrified at the phone bills! There was no internet back then, no i phones no sms, nothing, nada! How ever did we manage? Can’t think how we survived without YouTube, Google, amazon or skype! So I think of food, the way my mother cooked a dish, and I remember throwing away that treasure book of mine, and I feel guilty every time, as if I’d betrayed my mother, and angry at myself for being so radical about getting rid of old stuff. I don’t think I was that aware of what I was doing at that moment. A big mistake I can’t rectify.