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Salad Days of Summer

Simplicity seems to be a buzzword in so many facets of lifestyle advice from minimalism to meditation. As I walked among the rows of farmers market stands last Saturday morning, I reminded myself how uncomplicated and gratifying mid-summer food preparation and eating can be, even for solo meals. The crisp crops are delicate from their short growing cycles but flavorful from the marinade of humid heat.

The suffocating steamy days of mid-summer can be exhausting, especially for those of us with chronic health issues. I am finding my tolerance for summer heat lessening, maybe it’s a side effect of my medications, maybe it’s a byproduct of several decades of working in restaurant kitchens that become infernos in the heat of the summer. 

Each crop has that feel and smell of just being pulled from the ground. Even though they have been rinsed, the radishes and the cucumbers still smell from the rich dirt that has housed them.  The lettuces and baby salad mixes have the distinct flavors each green was meant to have, some crunchier, some firmer, some a bit more bitter. The testament of the farmers’ expertise is in the flawless leaves that are free of bug holes, even though their sign says “we use no sprays.”

If I need to withstand the humid heat for the sensory explosion of a vine ripened tomato, especially the petite jewels called sun gold tomatoes, I willfully agree.   When the skinny green beans are so tender and sweet, I don’t have to cook them but can snap them into my salad, I willfully sweat on my walk home from the farmers market. How nice, then, that I can pass by my favorite bakery, Batch,, for a demi-baguette, a half-sized baguette perfect for solo eating. Of course, two of their chocolate cookies, some of the best I have ever had, finish the walk home with me too.

I remember why I have such a hard time buying these same types of vegetables, or what looks like these same vegetables, at the grocery store in the winter.  They are, in so many ways, not the same vegetables.  Most vegetables and fruits travel well over a thousand miles to get to our plates. Flavor and nutrition do not travel well.

Flowers & Veggies

I am sure going to try to eat raw vegetable salads from now until the autumn winds blow in.  There is something to be said for simplicity when it means perfection: vegetables and fruits that go from the vine to your table when they carry with them the truly simple joy of food that tastes so good and you know is good for you.  

Agricultural states, like my home Wisconsin, are in trouble and we who live here need to eat from here.  Add some spectacular cheese to that bread and salad and the meal is complete. Not much more simple that that.