Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Return of Odysseus Salad

We sat at the table for hours, tasting, laughing, enjoying our tea as it drained through spiced sugar cubes nestled in our teeth and melted them down to sand. The only plans we had that day were to enjoy the meal to come, and we luxuriously spent the entire afternoon on it. We didn't feel the need to be rushing off to make money, or packing for the shore, or vacationing in the Caribbean. We found gratitude for the rain outside. We situated ourselves to have a brilliant view of the bustling restaurant and the waitstaff as they swished in and out of the swinging kitchen door. We perused the menu for nearly an hour, focusing on each ingredient in the 5 word description, imagining how it might taste mixed with the compliments.
The waitress came by and made a comment about the rain and then a joke about how at least we had an “ocean view”. Our three heads turned to look out of the giant restaurant windows, past the stone fenced in patio at the gray speckled street. Ocean? As we watched her whisk away with her silver water pitcher, we huddled our heads together to figure out exactly what she meant by "ocean view". The young waitress was originally from Iran, and though she had a mild accent, her English was perfect. Then it hit me, the restaurant was named after a Sea. She was referring to our restaurant view.
I remember a time when I believed I could only be truly happy on the ocean. Having recently moved off of a sailboat where I had built an identity around being a sailor to the middle of the country I felt stuck on the idea that I was somehow misplaced. I called my father and begged him to send me a plane ticket back to the east coast. Thank God he refused. I was desperate to make him understand how lonely I was for the ocean, I was convinced that I would feel whole again if only I could feel the gentle sway beneath me and taste the cool, wet, ocean air. Imagine my hopelessness when I stood on that beach, my panacea before me, and felt no more whole than I had in the mid-west.
And here I sat, on a cold, rainy Saturday afternoon with a restaurant view miles away from any ocean, and I. Felt. Complete.
I remember first meeting Christina. Every moment was filled with happiness and meaning, all of my senses newly brightened with awareness for the richness of life. The thought of leaving her was physically painful. When I told her this, she consoled me by saying "we are just moving through space".
This salad can be enjoyed anywhere provided the eater of the salad is willing to surrender to it.

The dressing:
4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp salad vinegar (or 1 1/2 Tbsp red wine vinegar)
juice from 1/2 lemon
Pepper to taste
Lemon pepper to taste
1 green onion diced
1/4 red onion diced

Mix 1 diced green pepper into the dressing. Then mix in 1/2 an English cucumber. Now 1 cup quartered cherry or grape tomatoes. Mix in 1/2 head romaine lettuce (if you want to be reminded of nights when your family would order pizza as a child and order a side salad, use iceberg) Mix in a handful of olive bar style olives (I like sun-dried tomato stuffed olives, garlic stuffed would be delicious in this salad!). Add 1 cup fresh mozzarella cheese and garnish with fennel crumbles. Fresh dill is also a nice compliment.

Christina's vote: "this salad gave me the strange urge to want to break plates"

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