Barking Kitten

Fiction, musings on literature, food writing, and the occasional Friday cat blog. For lovers of serious literature, cooking, and eating.


Close to forty. Not cool. Politically left. Atheist. Happily married. No kids.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Salads vs Desserts

There are two kinds of eaters in the realm of food snobbery: the salad eaters and the dessert eaters.

Here is what Alice Waters has to say about salads:

"A sense of renewal comes upon me each time I work with incredibly fresh and sweetly scented ingredients for a salad. In fact, I would rather make salads than any other dish." (163)

Her words on dessert:

"I have often found...that I really did not wish to have a dessert at the meal's end...Too often dessert is a sugar fix rather than a touch of sweetness as a change from the the savory, the salty, or the piquant." (11)

In The Savory Way, Deborah Madison devotes forty pages to salad. While the dessert section is equally generous, she begins the section saying:

"Well-grown fruit, cultivated for taste and truly the ideal dessert." (345)

But Judy Rodgers, in her peerless Zuni Cafe Cookbook, makes the most damning statement about a salad of Bosc Pears with Fennel, Fresh Walnuts, Parmigano-Reggiano, and Balsamic Vinegar:

"This salad has a primitive sweetness that is as elegant as any refined sugar dessert I know." (107)


I ALWAYS want dessert.

I never want it to involve fruit, nuts (with the exception of ground almonds), or greens.

To me the best desserts involve sugar, preferably as a component of chocolate. Specfically, chocolate ice cream. Organic, superpremium, expensive, artery clogging. Sometimes, if I am at a restaurant, I will break with personal tradition for a nice piece of flourless chocolate cake or a slab of tiramisu.

Gelato? Pass the container and a spoon. No bowl necessary.

I do not like chunks in my ice cream. I have never visited Coldstone Creamery, where you may pick from a cornucopia of additions that are then mushed into your ice cream on a marble slab. No chocolate chips, jujubes, nuts, sprinkles. No syrup or even whipped cream to interrupt that cold smoothness.

Obviously I am not the food sophisticate you folks out in bloggerland thought me to be. If I were, I would be indifferent to sweets, as Alice, Judy, and Deborah profess to be. Instead, I would go into raptures about mesclun.

I think mesclun tastes like green mess. I find lettuce, even the fresh stuff from the farm, lacking. Greens-based salads, i.e. the lettuce/tomato/cucumber and whatever else with vinaigrette, are akin to the bad movie previews you must sit through before the movie starts. Don't get me wrong--I love vegetables. One of my favorite solitary meals is an artichoke with garlic mayonnaise. Tomato salad--summer tomatoes with basil and mozzarella, or just thickly sliced tomatoes all by themselves--should not be called salad. It's unfair: all that wondrous sweet/tart flavor, jammed ino the lettuce category. Ditto potato salad, the antithesis of green lightness.


I understand and accept those who aren't into dessert; I am married to one of this odd tribe. What bothers me is the smugness of some. They parade their mesclun-loving superiority. Their dessert sections are presented grudgingly: I don't eat dessert, but you, the fat middle-American cookbook buyer, demand it. So here it is.

Invariably there is a recipe for olive oil cake.

I think it is possible to have a sweet tooth and appreciate fine food. I realize sugar in quantity is not health food; I curb my craving for ice cream. I don't eat trash sugar--cheap candy or Hostess Boxed Cakes. I am indifferent to soda, which to me will always be pop. But I reserve the right to be a food snob and eat my cake, too.

Besides, I don't care how careful you are with a green salad--the oil and the vinegar are going to puddle at the bottom of the dish. Stray bit of scallion swim there, sliding off your fork. Shreds of lettuce get stuck in your dental work. And if you are trying to be a thin person by making a meal of your lettuce and tomato, God help you. You're gonna be hungry real soon.

Unless you eat dessert.

Cookbooks cited:

Madison, Deborah: The Savory Way: New York: Boradway Books, 1990.

Rodgers, Judy: The Zuni Cafe Cookbook. New York: Norton, 2002

Waters, Alice: Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook. New York: Random House, 1982

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