Hot salad: finding joy in making salad

  • Share this story
Hot salad: finding joy in making salad

Finding a “low-cal” salad to love has not been easy for Sam Woulidge,
but she’s made it her new year’s mission to find the joy in a well-dressed plate

A while back, I found myself ordering salad takeaways three times in one week because I was craving it. Strange behaviour for me, I know. But there it was; I wanted crisp salad greens and, as usual, I had no inclination to make it myself.

I just don’t love making salad. I like salads prepared by other people. My friends make great salads, restaurants make great salads. Some shops make great salads. Mine are generally mediocre. Although I do have a handful of great, albeit calorific, salad recipes I make over and over again. My radish, basil and feta April Bloomfield one is a winner, as is my raw sweetcorn, mint and feta that goes so well with Mexican flavours. My tomato, garlic and anchovy salad is pretty addictive, and I can throw together a pretty decent version of Jacques’s Kewpie mayo-drenched Asian slaw even though I have a heavy hand with the ginger and peanuts.

Also, my Greek salad is excellent perhaps because it’s so simple and I follow the golden rule of not adding lettuce as so many people are wont to do. But I know I must expand my repertoire because I need to deal with my alarming pandemic weight gain and would like to deal with it in such a way that I do not feel utterly deprived and miserable, and also because of Seb, who eats only cucumbers (he calls them “cukes”, which makes me smile) and tomatoes “when they haven’t touched anything else…” He regards everything else with acute suspicion.

I’d like him to develop a taste for fresh crunchy things, so that ice creams are not the only treats. And I’d also like him not to continue regarding salads with such distaste and disdain, even as my own eyes drift across to the dessert menu… I do have some healthy salad memories to call on in times of need.

I remember how my mom used to take me to Zerban’s in the Gardens Centre after school and we’d eat an incredibly delicious crunchy salade Niçoise that was served in large glass bowls at linen-draped tables. I chose the salad over the pastries. Every time. In New York at David Chang‘s Momofuku Ssam Bar, the green goddess salad blew me away. A large wedge of iceberg lettuce (never underestimate iceberg lettuce!) with green goddess dressing poured over it. That was it. I couldn’t get enough of it. The dressing was so good it almost made me forget about my cracked tooth, which had fallen victim to a walnut dressing (beware of walnuts!) in a rather less spectacular salad at a trendy salad bar we’d been to the day before.

For me, salad dressing is the most important part of a salad. The French know this. A good vinaigrette makes a well-dressed salad. Classic culinary couture. My new favourite salad has a dressing of garlic, chilli and sesame seeds and tastes nothing like the deprivation of I’m-on-a-diet cucumbers. It also tastes nothing like those rounds of cucumber drenched in the sugared vinegar of my youth; this is a grown-up, well-travelled, spicy salad. Cool cukes for when you’re feeling hot, hot, hot. So, let these be my true salad days, for while Shakespeare’s idiom idealised the carefree innocence of youth, ageing is a privilege not everyone is afforded, I say. And so, as a new year begins, I will continue to pursue pleasure and joy. And find both. Even in a salad.

Find the recipe for Sam’s cucumber salad with chilli oil here. 

Sam Woulidge Article by: Sam Woulidge

Cape Town-based writer Sam Woulidge is a regular TASTE columnist, blogger and author of 'Confessions of a Hungry Woman'. Follow her on Twitter @samwoulidge

Social Media

You might be interested in...