Monday, June 28, 2010

Coffee Story Salad

The old man hunched over the table, scattered newspapers spread before him in a table cloth of gray and black. The bend in his back arched over so extreme that it appeared his head was growing out of his chest, and his ears were long and leathered. He hung his head and muttered into his coffee, which nearly graced the tip of his nose. His elbows were anchored firmly in frond of him, and splayed wide in a posture of open assertiveness. Every so often he would gesture, with his hands.

It was this gesturing that first caught my attention. I was waiting at the bar for my embarrassingly large coffee. Though I try to convince myself otherwise, a Starbucks is really just a glorified McDonalds, fast food overindulgence. I was planning to take my coffee and go, so that I could have the illusion of a nice relaxing morning coffee date without the actual nice relaxing morning..or the date. To some people the word coffee is a verb meaning the action of sitting together for a leisurely conversation, lasting anywhere from 1 to 24 hours. Christina and her family define coffee in this way. In Germany, take out coffee is still such a novelty that they actually distinguish "coffee" from "coffee to go". As my German professor used to say "Americans take something perfectly wonderful like a cappuccino, and put it in a paper cup so that they can walk around with it. It defeats the whole purpose of enjoying a cappuccino!" To me, coffee is a beverage that I consume to help me perform my daily activities, much like some people enjoy alcohol to help them perform nightly activities.

The gesturing caught my attention out of the corner of my eye. Next I noticed the mans deeply wrinkled skin and freshly groomed appearance. His hair was parted over to the left and was lined with tooth tracks from what was probably a small black comb. The chair across from him was empty, but he didn't seem to notice. He was eagerly relaying a story, and one that had probably been rehearsed thousands of times. "So then I lay the cards out on the table.." he said, cocking his head to the right and leaning in a bit, toward the empty chair across from him. Aside from the fact that he was talking to an imaginary friend, the man seemed perfectly normal. Besides that, the story sounded good. I had the sudden urge to rush over and fill the empty chair, but I didn't want to break his spell. I thought, maybe I could eavesdrop from another table, and I regretted that I didn't have time.

The stories of elderly people are worth listening to. They are like recipes that have been prepared many times and tested on multiple audiences. You just know that they are going to be good. I thought about this as I reflected on season 2 of 90 salads. I am just a baby in the salad world, and thankful for the audience I have. I hope that one day, when my recipes are tweaked and my skills are fully seasoned, some young people will happen by and fill the seat across the table from me to listen.

Sesame Tamari dressing
1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
1/4 cup vegetable oil (sunflower oil is nice)
1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp tamari
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp raw honey
a touch of wasabi for kick (optional)

The salad
3/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 cup bean sprouts
3 medium carrots, diced or shredded
3/4 cup shredded purple cabbage
1 small head green leaf lettuce

Christina's vote: "This salad un-levels the playing field"

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