Do you travel to Europe? I have been fortunate enough to have a job that has sent me abroad many times over the years. My cooking and tastes have been influenced by many of the tastes and experiences from these adventures. After all, local, organic and seasonal never stopped being what you ate in countries such as Italy and France. Sure, you can find McDonalds in every country in Europe and if you want to find an American just go there. Smaller countries tend to hold on to their traditions and culture with more nationalistic pride than we do here at home. Interestingly, they also travel and experience other cultures more than we do. Granted, the distance between countries in Europe is not nearly what it is in North America.
We, as a nation do not travel abroad. The exact figures are a bit elusive, but around 38% of people in the U.S. own a passport. Travel is expensive and most people will tell you that it is the number one reason they do not go to Europe. But, 17 million people went to Disneyworld last year at $90 per head per day. Families often go for 4 or 5 days in a row. A ticket to Orlando from New York is about $250 per person round trip. So, if you add the airfare and 5 days of tickets to Disney you have a total of $700. That does not include hotel or food, mainly because hotels are about the same everywhere and there is no food in Orlando. A round trip ticket to Paris from New York is about $650. So is it really the expense?
I’m not trying to be a snob here. I think it is important to experience different cultures in order to expand our own tastes and sometimes to appreciate our own culture. I think it is equally important to expose our children to different places. We spend a good deal of our children’s lives reinforcing the idea that they can do anything. Well, we also need to enforce the idea that they can GO anywhere as well. Traveling to different lands promotes tolerance, respect and possibility. These are life lessons that stay with you. It changes the way you think about the world. When I hear someone make a generalization about a people I always think: “They haven’t met my friend “so and so”.
In Italy, there is a simple salad served at just about every meal. It’s usually served after the main course. At our house, we make a salad for almost every meal. Often it’s just some greens and a very light dressing. We don’t make the kids eat it although we suggest it. “Try the salad. I think you’ll like it. It has a strawberry dressing.” This way it’s just there; it’s not a once in a while healthy alternative. That sends both the wrong and too strong of a message. Instead, we just DO something every day and it becomes normal, not “special” and certainly not “good for you”.
I do post Salad recipes here from time to time but everyone should learn how to improvise a salad. Here are the building blocks.
- Other Vegetables (optional)
- Fat (Olive Oil is usually our first choice)
- Acid (Citrus, Vinegars)
- Flavor for Dressing like Garlic or Shallots (Optional)
- Herbs and Seasonings
- Salad Bowl
- Chef’s Knife
- Clean Hands for Tossing
- Choose fresh, seasonal greens. Last night we had a great head of romaine. Wash and dry thoroughly.
- Tear into bite sized pieces.
- Salt the leaves.
- Add anything that you like.
- Mix together or just apply directly to the salad a dressing. Last night I was making a dish with bacon so I used a few drops of bacon grease along with some olive oil and a squeeze of an orange. Just use enough dressing to lightly coat the leaves. This is not a soup.
- Toss with your hands.