The People at the Salad Bar
I swung by the local vegan-friendly grocery store to pick up a salad and some autumnal minestrone soup before I got back to work. I picked up an empty salad container and got behind a nice, clean-cut, middle aged couple who were filling their own salad containers. They looked like they had come from a nearby office on their lunch break. Once I was committed to purchasing a salad, once I had placed my grubby hands on that empty container, that is when I listened in on the conversation that was happening next to me. The one happening between the two people who were blocking my access to the romaine.
“Yes, there are so many options at a salad bar,” the man told the woman. “They’re really one of my favourite things. Let me tell you about it.”
At this point, I assumed that the woman was not from the United States or perhaps she had never left her house before and therefore had no clue how a salad bar worked. And because I am a kind person who was only moderately in a rush to get back to work, I arranged my face into a mask of understanding and waited patiently for the couple to notice that there was someone right behind them who would love to just grab some lettuce and edamame and beat it on out of there whenever it was convenient for them to open up a little space at the bar.
“So what you have here are lots of different options. And if you decide you want something, you pick up this thing here: it’s a scoop. And you just dig it on down in the vegetable and scoop; you scoop it up. And then you move the spoon over your container and drop the vegetables inside.”
“Wow, lots of options.”
The woman’s accent was definitely American. So she must be a recluse. Except she had a nice healthy glow about her. And she was in normal, business-style clothing as if she had come from an office. So now I decided that — poor lamb — she must have had a head trauma and forgotten about salad bars. And now this nice man was reteaching her how to pull together a lunch. If she could bravely relearn salad bars, then I could wait patiently for two minutes so she didn’t feel rushed. I also had to wait patiently because even though they acknowledged my presence with a nod, they weren’t moving aside to let me put my speedy salad-making skills to use.
“So, yes, you just pick up the spoon, scoop it on down in the vegetables, and then place them in your container. And you can choose anything here.”
“This is great!” the woman said.
“I like to start with lettuce,” the man admitted.
“Oh, me too. Actually, Gary, I’ve been to a salad bar before!”
“You have? Well how about that. Have you ever put English peas in your salad?” the man asked.
“I just hadn’t thought to do that. That’s so clever. Have you ever put peas in your salad?”
“No, I’m not a big fan, as they say. No thank you on peas! What about carrots? How do you feel about carrots?”
“Well they have certainly sliced them very thinly here,” the woman commented. “How do you like that? Little matchstick carrots. How clever!”
“Okay, Helen. Tell me. What do you think of cooked foods in a salad?”
“Like these clever little tofu strips? I don’t really know, Gary.”
They realized that I was staring at them in disbelief, and they made a big show of stepping back from the bar so they could let me have a turn while they debated out the merits of every single offering at the very extensive salad bar. As I quickly filled my container, they talked about whether or not to add croutons at the end, how they felt about salad dressing, and the best way to close the salad container. I decided I would do the rest of my grocery shopping and come back to get the soup from the soup bar at the end because I was about to lose it on Gary and Helen.
I did all my other grocery shopping and then swung back to the salad bar, certain that even though my first trip to that area of the store took 8 minutes, that Gary and Helen would be gone by this point. Back in their office with their very carefully constructed salads. BUT THEY WERE STILL AT THE BAR. And now they were debating all the soups. How to fill a cup. Which soup to get. Which soups remind them of their grandmother’s house in the middle of winter and which soups are really ones they’d rather never have again. And how the lentil soup at the store is so clever because it has little bits of pasta in it!
I was able to bust in there and grab a quick container of soup and dash into line. They ended up two behind me in my row.
This is the point in the story where I’m supposed to say that I was the monster and how sweet Gary and Helen were that they could find such joy and deep thought in considering vegetables and how no one has patience these days.
But the trip to the grocery store that is within walking distance of my home took 40 minutes. 40 minutes. So no, I don’t have a sweet, after school special, one-to-grow-on type ending to this story. Just the knowledge that I probably finished eating my lunch before they had drained their wonder and impeded many other people from stuffing some salad in their pie hole.
If you think slow driver or slow walkers are annoying, you need to spend some time between slow salad makers. It’s a different playing field.