Thursday, April 30, 2015

Considering The Role of Salad

Dream restaurant menu deliberations continue. 

Today: Salad.

I'm part of an interesting generation.  My formative nutritional years were spent in the absence of Nutrition Facts labels.  Low-fat food was just starting to take hold in sophisticated, far-off places like California.  McDonalds sold nothing but burgers and fries.

I was in my late teens when the nutritional, dietetic world seemed to flip upside down.  Weight Watchers, calories, fat-free...all now part of the everyday vernacular, even in the Midwest.  I remember when McDonalds starting selling salads on their menu.  And salads starting becoming the popular, healthy alternative to a heavy, greasy lunch.

And now...it seems any restaurant who doesn't have any decent, meal-size salads on their menu is just asking to be bankrupt in a year.  But, here's the question I have: is that because customers really do want to eat more salads, or because they feel like they should because we've had two decades of salad-friendly indoctrination? Hm.  Unfortunately, I have no answer nor data to begin to formulate an answer.

So, this café menu I'm working on.  Can't help but feel the salad pressure.  But, a small voice inside of me is saying NO! And it's getting louder every day. 

I don't want to be known for salads.  I don't want it to be my focus.  I want the sandwiches (and awesome condiments, yeah?) and soups to be the reason people are wowed.  I want salads to be the side.  Most of the places here in town (sit-down, that is) have a chef, a cobb, a Mexican, a Caesar, etc.  I'm not that interested in doing those...unless I can spin it in some way...but is it really where I want my energy to go?

Instead, what about a small selection of unique salads, and maybe not so "lettuce" heavy?  Roasted beets, chickpeas, celery-and-fennel, a modified wedge?  And no meal-size portion, either.  It's a side to the sandwich or soup.  It's not the main event.

This is what excites me.  I suspect, though, I'll need to keep a bag of iceberg and jar of ranch dressing on hand for that certain demographic around here that doesn't quite understand the paradox: a healthy, green, cancer-fighting drenched in sugar-laden, fake-food soaked ranch dressing.

And there, in a nutshell, is the irony of the American diet.

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