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Brain salad surgery

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Over the past few weeks, I have been watching my waist, which is easy to do because every time I look, there’s a little more of it. Anyway, I came home hungry from the golf course today. I peered into the cupboard and reached for a small bag of Cheetos, but when I looked at the bag’s nutrition label and did the math, the calorie tally was just this side of 600—with 350 of them from fat. Bears should eat Cheetos before hibernating.

So I ate a banana instead. I was so pleased with this sensible diet choice—I make one about every fortnight—that I decided to have a salad for supper. This was that magic diet moment I had been waiting for. I was going to transform myself into a nutrition superstar.

I am not nearly ambitious enough to buy a head of lettuce, carrots, onions, tomatoes, green pepper, etc., to make a salad from scratch. Fortunately, several food companies are willing to do this and charge only the amount it would cost for me to buy fresh fruit and vegetables for a month. It just so happened I had one of those prefab salads in the fridge. And for once, it wasn’t 11 weeks past the “best by this date” advisory. For me, the road to hell is paved with good intentions that run right up to a tollbooth in the grocery store produce aisle.

OK: bagged lettuce, bits of cabbage, some shredded carrots—this needs something else. I remembered seeing a small bottle of sun-dried tomato halves dressed in Italian herbs in the back of the refrigerator. This bears repeating: These were not just any herbs. They were Italian herbs. Perfect. And, the label added in a gold-lettered flourish, extra virgin olive oil. (I’ve never been able to understand the concept “extra virgin” ever since girls in high school used to use the phrase as an excuse to not go out with me. But those are tales for other times.)

As it turned out, this bottle had been sitting in the back of the fridge so long that the Italian herbs and olive oil had congealed to the consistency of amber just before it solidifies around some hapless fly, which is then preserved intact for thousands of years. It was apparent this mixture was well on its way to also becoming a historical record. I could imagine people eons in the future, holding the jar up to a bright light and wondering exactly what they had found. As I extracted the tomato halves out of the jar with a fork, the goo stuck to the tomatoes like gum sticks to your favorite shoes. And when they were alone at the end of the fork, they looked just like little tomatoes would look if they had been walking along the shoulder of the highway and been run over by an 18-wheel tractor-trailer hauling cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. However, the prospect of chewing on herb-flavored bits of what appeared to be red rubber did not deter me. Who knows? All that time saturated in spices might have made them even tastier.

Next ingredient: shredded Romano cheese. Just about everything tastes better with shredded Romano except ice cream, but to tell the truth, I’ve never tried it on ice cream. (However, I once tried Tabasco sauce on vanilla ice cream, to mixed reviews.)

The green, leafy mixture was starting to show promise, but it lacked zip. At this point, I was ready to reach for the peppermill, but I decided to up the ante: Frank’s RedHot pepper sauce, which I really like. I sprinkled some on the salad and then peered into the fridge for a dressing.

And there it stood. It was like destiny—well, as much as destiny can be associated with a salad, that is. “It” was the perfect dressing for my mélange: a sun-dried tomato vinaigrette.

I unscrewed the cap and started shaking the bottle so the dressing would drip through the hole in the middle of the plastic stopper at the top of the bottleneck. The only problem was, that little dribbler of a spout was part of the cap I’d unscrewed, so the dressing gushed onto the salad like a Hawaiian lava flow. Panicking, I checked the nutrition label on the dressing bottle. A tablespoon contained 60 calories, and I had just doused the salad with what appeared to be a gallon of it. As I began eating, I hoped it would simply sink to the bottom of the bowl.

How was it?

The Romano cheese was a good choice. Ditto for the Frank’s RedHot.

The vegetables from the bag were OK, but I suppose I could break down and buy an onion and green pepper to give the salad some flavor. Who knows? Maybe croutons loom in the future, too.

The sun-dried tomato halves worked better as a concept.

And the dressing? Well, I figure I just ate a 700-calorie salad. I’m hoping another banana will make up for it.


( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 7th, 2011 12:19 pm (UTC)
olive oil had congealed to the consistency of amber just before it solidifies around some hapless fly

Gorgeous language - thanks for posting this.
Jul. 7th, 2011 01:40 pm (UTC)
Thankyousoverymuch! as Stevie Ray Vaughan used to say. I had a bit of fun with that one.
Jul. 7th, 2011 06:56 pm (UTC)
Food fun
Hey, baby steps - even if they're sozzled with dressing!

Here's a tip: stand the jar/bottle in a bowl with a few inches of hot water for a couple of minutes. Voila! Your road-kill tomatoes or solidified dressing will be de-congealed in no time.

Tip #2: I use those Debbie Meyer GreenBags from the produce department, (not to be confused with Little Debbie Snack Cakes, mind you) and fruits and veggies stay fresher MUCH longer. But you have to follow the directions (I KNOW, directions on using a bag!) and make sure the stuff is dried off before putting in the bag.

Jul. 7th, 2011 08:17 pm (UTC)
Re: Food fun
I'll have to look for those bags.

On the way home from work today I stopped at Tops and bought a red pepper, some carrots, a white onion, a cucumber, some sun-dried strawberries, croutons, shredded Romano and some strawberry-vinaigrette dressing. I figure it will only take me about 90 minutes to combine all that with the Bag O'Lettuce.

But you're right: baby steps. Last week I had to stop on the stairs landing halfway up to my office to catch my breath. I figured it was mortality tapping me on the shoulder.
Jul. 7th, 2011 08:27 pm (UTC)
Re: Food fun
I started about a week ago, too. I got this book:


Some of it, in my opinion, is bull-oney, but SOME of it is very informative and helpful. I'm doing pretty well with their plan and my modifications. The concept is to get your body to burn stored fat instead of using other stuff for energy. LOTS of water is critical.
Jul. 7th, 2011 09:00 pm (UTC)
Re: Food fun
Thanks for the link, Jamie. I've got a book by Dr. Oz and another writer called You on a Diet or something like that, but I abandoned it about halfway through (before the good parts) because the writers obviously didn't realize it's easy to reach the "wretched excess" stage with similes and metaphors.

I think I've been eating way too many carbs: thus the salads and fruit. And I really felt good after spending some time on the bicycle—much easier to fall and stay asleep, more energy in the morning, etc.

The lots of water part is something I need frequent reminders about, though, because I need to drink a lot during the summer to avoid forming kidney stones.

I figure if I stick with this plan, by the time we all get together for the Decemberists, I'll be back at my old high school senior year weight of 142. And all of my hair will have grown back. In dreadlocks.
Jul. 7th, 2011 10:34 pm (UTC)
Re: Food fun
Ha! I've got issues with the writing in my book, too! Inevitable, I suppose. They try to convince you that the reason we shouldn't eat grains (bread OR rice) is because our ancestors (goin' WAY back) didn't eat them. But that it's ok to have a hot dog, processed deli meat, and zero-calorie drinks. Oh, and that we shouldn't drink milk, because cows produce it for calves, not for human consumption. Even though cows without babies make milk...

Lots of water - 16-32 oz. first thing in the morning and multiple big glasses throughout the day. No little sips, big glasses. Interestingly, the more I drink, the less I retain, which is the point. We retain water when we don't get nearly enough.
Jul. 7th, 2011 07:49 pm (UTC)
Haha I love this post. This is my life. And according to the world of Lisa, the banana definitely makes up for it, so don't worry. :)
-Lisa B
Jul. 7th, 2011 08:19 pm (UTC)
Re: :)
Always good to hear from you, Lisa. I appreciate your endorsement of the banana. Just bought some more today, in fact.

Jul. 8th, 2011 02:28 am (UTC)
Omg, this had me rolling around laughing. So many beautiful one liners.

Damn dressing. It's always the dressing's fault.
Jul. 8th, 2011 02:42 am (UTC)
Any day I can make somebody laugh is a day well spent. Thanks for the kind words!
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )

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