Growing up in a household made up of a long line of educators and farmers was mostly fun. Words, for instance, were always on the menu. My great-uncle Fred, a farm-raised high school history teacher, has a peculiar conscience about definitions and expectations. To him, salad means green lettuce, with maybe some carrots and tomatoes and cucumbers; vegetables you could walk over and pluck from the garden. To church ladies, salad has more variety. Our favorite is gelatin salad, especially if whipped cream is one of the ingredients. Fred gets this look on face whenever someone brings one of these dishes to the table. It’s an abomination if marshmallows are involved. Naturally, Thanksgiving always includes giggles, lime gelatin, pineapple chunks, cherries, and lots of whipped cream. He has never taken it in good stride, even when we try to remind him that one dictionary definition of salad is “hodgepodge.”
What’s in your salad? My salad has expanded with the size of our garden after relocating to a farm with retirement. We like to experiment with varieties of vegetables, and trade recipes with our Amish neighbors. There are endless varieties of tomatoes! My favorite is an heirloom called Anna Russian. Zucchini, once banned in our former garden, now competes with cukes and minced purple onions, cilantro, and the most beautiful fresh dark leaves of aromatic basil you ever inhaled. Dill…who’d have thought it would go on anything but pickles and tuna…um, salad? Fresh peas, even strawberry slices. With ingredients like that, we hardly need dressing. It’s really about expanding your horizons, trying new things, spreading your wings, and having fun. Taking things in stride, lightening up…throwing whatever comes into the mix and discovering stuff like…salsify. Or maybe not. And keeping a bag of marshmallows in your baking cupboard for those great-uncle emergencies.