Food/Drink

Eating healthy: the 700-calorie salad

By Patrick Vecchio

Over the past few weeks I have been watching my waist, which is easy to do because every time I look, there’s a little more of it. Anyway, I came home hungry from the golf course today. I peered into the cupboard and reached for a small bag of Cheetos, but when I looked at the bag’s nutrition label and did the math, the calorie tally was just this side of 600—with 350 of them from fat. Bears should eat Cheetos before hibernating.

So I ate a banana instead. I was so pleased with this sensible diet choice—I make one about every fortnight—that I decided to have a salad for supper. This was that magic diet moment I had been waiting for: I was going to start transforming myself into a nutrition superstar.

I am not nearly ambitious enough to buy a head of lettuce, carrots, onions, tomatoes, green pepper, etc., to make a salad from scratch. Fortunately, several food companies are willing to do this and charge only the amount it would cost for me to buy fresh fruit and vegetables for an entire month. It just so happened I had one of those prefab salads in the refrigerator. And for once, it wasn’t 11 weeks past the “best by this date” advisory. For me, the road to hell is paved with good intentions and leads to a tollbooth in the grocery store produce aisle.

OK, let’s see what we have here: bagged lettuce with bits of cabbage, some shredded carrots—this needs something else. I remembered seeing a small bottle of sun-dried tomato halves dressed in Italian herbs in the back of the refrigerator. This bears repeating: These were not just any herbs. They were Italian herbs. Perfect. And, the label added in a gold-lettered flourish, extra virgin olive oil. (I’ve never been able to understand the concept of “extra virgin” ever since the girls from my town’s Catholic high school used the phrase as an excuse to not go out with me. But those are tales for other times.)

As it turned out, this bottle had been sitting in the back of the fridge so long that the Italian herbs and olive oil had congealed to the consistency of amber just before it solidifies around some hapless fly, which is then preserved intact for thousands of years. This mixture was well on its way to also becoming a historical record. I could imagine people eons in the future, holding the jar up to a bright light and wondering exactly what they had found. As I extracted the tomato halves out of the jar with a fork, the goo stuck to the tomatoes like gum sticks to your favorite shoes. And when they were alone at the end of the fork, they looked just like little tomatoes would look if they had been walking along the shoulder of the highway and been run over by an 18-wheel tractor-trailer hauling cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. However, the prospect eating herb-flavored bits of what appeared to be red rubber did not deter me. Who knows? All that time saturated in spices might have made them even tastier.

Next ingredient: shredded Romano cheese. Just about everything tastes better with shredded Romano except ice cream, but to tell the truth, I’ve never tried it on ice cream. (However, I once tried Tabasco sauce on vanilla ice cream, to mixed reviews.)

The green, leafy mixture was starting to show promise, but it lacked zip. I was ready to reach for the peppermill, but I decided to up the ante: Frank’s RedHot pepper sauce. I sprinkled some on the salad and then peered into the fridge for a dressing.

And there it stood. It was like destiny—well, as much as destiny can be associated with a salad, that is. “It” was the perfect dressing for my mélange: a sun-dried tomato vinaigrette.

I unscrewed the cap and started shaking the bottle so the dressing would drip through the hole in the middle of the plastic stopper at the top of the bottleneck. The only problem was, that little dribbler of a spout was part of the cap I’d unscrewed, so the dressing gushed onto the salad like a Hawaiian lava flow. Panicking, I checked the nutrition label on the dressing bottle. A tablespoon contained 60 calories, and I had just doused the salad with what appeared to be a gallon of it. As I began eating, I hoped it would simply sink to the bottom of the bowl.

How was it?

The Romano cheese was a good choice.

Ditto for the Frank’s RedHot.

The vegetables from the bag were OK, but I suppose I could break down and buy an onion and green pepper to give the salad some flavor. Who knows? Maybe croutons loom in the future, too.

The sun-dried tomato halves worked better as a concept.

And the dressing? Well, I figure I ate a 700-calorie salad. I’m hoping another banana will make up for it.

Categories: Food/Drink, Funny

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