A Curmudgeon Rerun: "Salads are Liars"
(Originally posted 9/3/18) In an attempt to feel healthier and lose weight, the Curmudgeon has been eating mostly salad for months. And I’ve barely seen any benefit. All along I’ve been wondering why I have yet to become as slim and toned as an Olympic athlete. I don’t know why I never saw it before: salads are nothing more than bowls full of lies.
On menus, they’re often listed in the section called “Heathy Fare” or “On The Lighter Side.” It’s the food we most associate with dieting or small appetites—the phrase “I’ll just have a salad” brings to mind images of waifish models and fitness freaks. It is as if salad is barely even food—just a whisper of a suggestion of sustenance from nature’s bounty, bursting with freshness and life-giving nutrients. That’s all lies—nothing but pure marketing.
It turns out, as the Curmudgeon only recently learned, that the presence of lettuce does not necessarily render a dish healthy or low fat, as I had been led to believe. Stick iceberg on a Reuben, or a leafy bed of greens under deep-fried cheese balls with sour cream, and they’re still among your doctor’s worst nightmares.
Let us consider, then, for example, the taco salad. My word, it’s fresh and buoyant, with all that dewy lettuce and perky tomato. Yes, and its other ingredients include salty, sugary salsa, plenty of fat-filled cheese, an enormous taco shell made of deep-fried flour, and refried beans, which are rich in sodium and bacon fat. Or how about a nice buffalo chicken salad? That’s salad, right? Deep-fried, battered chicken, bleu cheese dressing, and sometimes bacon, all nestled in a nice healthy bed of romaine. What could be wrong? Or why not enjoy a Chinese chicken salad, with its crispy noodles and sugary dressing? Why, I can fairly feel my body optimizing itself at the very thought of this dietetic miracle food.
Not only are salads definitely not the weight-loss wonders they would have us think they are, they’re damned sneaky about it too, with their never-mentioned-on-the-menu croutons and such. And if they don’t get you with the ingredients, they get you with the dressings. Dressings are the Trojan horses of salads. “Look at us. We’re just scant little barely-there coatings to keep your veggies from being dry.” Damned dirty smugglers. And I fell for it, again and again. What a fool I was. One of my former favorites was a raw vegetable salad, served with creamy basil dressing that turned out to have forty grams of fat. More salad trickery. I could have had cheesecake.
The fact is, anything can be called salad. Potato salad is a salad, and there’s nary a vegetable to be found (unless you’re counting parsley). Macaroni salad is a salad: starch and mayo in a bowl. I’ll bet somewhere there’s a cheese salad, or maybe even a donut salad. (I did a little research. Are you sitting down? There’s a bacon salad . . . topped with crispy onions, of course.)
So if you thought, as I did, that a diet favoring salad would render you svelte, I’m afraid I’m the bearer of not just extra pounds but also bad news. And I’m plenty mad about it. I feel hoodwinked and bamboozled. Worst of all, I will now have to learn which foods are which, like I have time for that.
Next thing you know, they’re going to tell me I need to exercise. Bastards.