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Eat your greens, Eagle County

Sarah Mausolf
Vail CO, Colorado
HL Spago Salad DT 3-3-08
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Try this experiment.

Go up to a random person and ask where they stand on the following issues.

Pro life or pro choice?

Obama or Clinton?

Romaine or iceberg?

Don’t be surprised if the lettuce question prompts the most passionate response. The salad, once a sidenote to the entree, has become increasingly entrenched in American culture. Taking on unexpected ingredients like the beet, graduating to entree status, worming its way into health magazines, the salad is a source of controversy.

“I’ve always loved salads,” Eagle resident Veronica Weatherbee said earlier this week. “I could eat them year-round.”

“I don’t eat salads. I hate them,” 63-year-old East Vail resident Blinky Blunk countered. “There’s nothing good about it.”

Americans agree on little when it comes to salad, including the definition of the word. From beet, brie and watercress at The French Press in Edwards to sweet potato ravioli, mixed greens and sherry vinaigrette at Terra Bistro in Vail to mango, papaya and chili lime dressing at May Palace in West Vail, the salad continues to rebel against conformity.

“I like what I’m seeing,” Avon resident Chris Hay said. “I think salads are getting more artistic.”

The American melting pot could help explain this trend. Chef Juan Anon with The French Press in Edwards said the salad has been absorbing international influences over the past decade. Anon, who has circled the globe three times by ship, said everything from duck confit to seared scallops are creeping into American salads.

“The variety of salads that you can find in the U.S. is way bigger than any other place,” he said.

With all these choices, it makes sense that people have different notions of the ideal mix. Some Vailites swear by meats while others prefer sweet ingredients. “You can take me to bed with walnuts and feta,” Avon resident Emily DeMello said.

For men and women, the salad plate can be a battle ground. Some observers cite a gender gap in what people look for in ingredients.

“Men like meat, protein, ranch dressing,” Hay said. “It’s run of the mill, straight up, straight forward. Men don’t like change. I’m speaking about men generally, not for myself.”

While men crave T-bones, some women crave tiny waists. Several people said women prefer a healthier mix.

“I’m looking for fried chicken and French fries,” Eagle-Vail resident Scott Halstead said. They’re looking for vegetables.”

Men say they almost universally detest some ingredients. “Sprouts,” Halstead asserted. Feta cheese, Hay added.

While those toppings might sound gross to gentlemen, consider what people in Thailand sprinkle on their salads.

Spiders, worms and cockroaches are like croutons there, Anon said. And we thought adding pear slices was wild.

While Americans have refrained from dousing their lettuce in insects ” so far ” they have been getting fancy with ingredients. Maybe too fancy.

“Whenever you go to a fundraising dinner, you get a meal and a salad,” Halstead said. “They just give you a handful of lettuce and some sprouts and some cherry vinaigrette or something.”

Chefs recognize the danger in getting too elaborate.

“I think that you went too far when you make a salad that somebody stands in front of it and doesn’t even know where to start,” Anon said. “Or wondering, ‘If I eat this, is everything going to fall down?'”

High Life Writer Sarah Mausolf can be reached at 748-2938 or smausolf@vaildaily.com.


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