Sunday, 5 February 2012

Diet Report 4: Salad Days

I'm worried that this particular entry may come off as being a little underwhelming now after the news of my technical non-loss this week. Worse, it could even seem depressing. For which reason if I see my expected loss in tonight's weigh point I will say what it is so that you can see the trend of my weight loss in action.

The Gateway

It started, innocently enough, with a choice of meal that Mrs Monkey had learned the ways of during a brief stint working for a chain of popular high street sandwich merchants. These particular merchants like to boast of the different combinations of stuff you can have in your sandwich and by stuff I mean vegetables, cheese and dressings. They also like to boast about their 12 inches. Am I making myself plain?

Anyhow, in addition to their distinctly bread-heavy menu these chaps also offer their menu selection as a salad bowl. This option is not pushed much in their advertisements and is less popular than the offerings that don't require pi to quantify (mmm, pi).

While Mrs Monkey was engaged in their employ, however, she had a chance to switch from bread to bowl and found the experience to be a rewarding one. When we came to diet it was suggested we try out this option as an alternative to more calorific fast food offerings. The construction of the salad bowl differs only slightly from the construction of one of their sandwiches. The assistant starts, obviously with the vegetables and layers the cheese, dressings and other meatier refinements on top of those.

I have never been much for a salad meal. I think mostly because almost all commercially prepared salads are either incredibly leafy or come with mandatory tomatoes. Neither my self nor the Mrs really go for raw tomatoes. As such, watching the assistant assemble the vegetably treat was something of a revelation.

First, a layer of the leafy stuff, there are enough varieties of lettuce you can buy in the supermarkets these days, you don't need me to paint you a picture. On top of this a mixture, in my case cucumber, red onions and peppers. Then the little tasty bits, sweetcorn and olives. After that you're ready for a small but satisfying portion of cold cuts, sprinkle with grated cheese and top with a dressing (don't feel guilty, it will help towards your pure fat quota for the day). All done:

Let me tell you, that bad boy is a lot more filling than a large Big MacDaddy with fries on the side. Note also that I went for the most unhealthy meat option: the sliced porky fat monster from Hell.

One of the big problems of salad is that in this society it has been co-opted by the kind of weirdo who will tell you that taking a bucket of fresh, raw vegetables, layering them, and then slathering them with cheese, spicy mayo and pork death is an insult and not worthy of one who quests for health. Okay, we think, then it all seems too tedious. If adding a little of what I fancy is out of the question pass the Bacon Double Chee and put me some fresh BBQ sauce with those crispy fries, oh, yeah and onion rings too my good fellow.

That's right, in order to prevent you from eating a small amount of questionably nutritious pleasure food health nuts have actively driven people away from huge, healthy and satisfying bowls of healthy raw vegetables. Or at least, that's been my problem. In the last month I have discovered an amazing truth. Putting a small portion of unhealthy fat and meat on top of a large bowl of raw vegetables makes the whole thing taste delicious and has no perceivable effect on the healthiness of the raw veg whatsoever! That's right! The vegetables are completely unaffected by putting cheese, mayo and meat on top of them! I know, staggering.

Hardcore Salad Munching

The sandwich chain experience is good but it left me hungry for more (well, after I'd digested the current bowl, at the time it's incredibly filling). Not only that but watching the sandwich chain drone make the salad was like a green and leafy epiphany. It's not hard to make a tasty salad, I realised, in fact, it's dead easy. Quickly posh salad "schooners" were purchased  along with the necessary refinements and we were away.

The salad you're about to see featured not only all the ingredients found at the sandwich chain but also grated carrots, red cabbage and some jalapenos for bite. Yum.

I had to include this initial picture just to show you how good the vegetables look ungarnished. In the spirit of full salad disclosure the next thing I did was this:

After that I put two thin slices of corned beef (bully beef American friends) over the top that effectively obscured the whole thing from view, so I chose not to photograph what looks, essentially, like a bowl filled with meat. The red blobs are a tangy tomato relish, because although the raw tomato is not to our tastes the chopped up and essentially turned to jam version goes great with meat.

The salad schooner allows the containment of probably between 30% and 40% more raw vegetables and the overall experience was tasty but I think I maxed out Mrs Monkey who could not finish the vegetable behemoth. That bowl, incidentally, including two thin slices of corned beef comes to about 350 calories including a single buttered granary roll on the side. Not only that it's a taste sensation.

The Birth of a Salad Monster

Friends, I must confess, I have become obsessed with salad. Just having a delicious salad at least four times a week isn't enough for the likes of me. Oh no. I've taken to garnishing other meals with side salads that generally restaurants would probably serve up as main salads.

This leads to my final point. In the outside world salad, generally speaking, is seen as the poor man's choice. It is often presented and dismissed as such by the kitchen hands of popular restaurant chains. How can something that you basically throw at a plate and douse in creamy goodness be competition for a perfectly grilled tuna steak or a painstakingly prepared slice of beef Wellington? It's nature's blessing, honestly I believe culinary professionals are jealous of the salad.

This, people, is why side salads in the normal world consist of three slices of drying out cucumber, two wilting iceberg lettuce leaves, a tiny portion of raw white onion, two lonely cherry tomatoes and a few stalks of cress dismissively given a tiny ghetto in the corner of the plate (and that's a particularly good example of the genre). I ate an excellent omelette for brunch yesterday and I got one lettuce leaf two slices of cucumber,  a tomato wedge, all covered in something mayonaisse-y and a tomato relish that basically drowned the whole thing. This is most people's experience of the side salad.

This is the side salad I put with a meal of cheeseburger and fries grilled at home last week:

Note, particularly, that this melon-farmer takes up half of the plate. The only foodstuff that could be said to be given a food ghetto on that plate were the 100g of crispy fries which was sufficient to add a little je ne sais quois to the rest of the meal.

Let me tell you, alternating bites of grease-dripping meaty cheese burger with mouthfuls of red cabbage, pepper and cucumber makes both foods taste amazing, it's like a vivid chiaroscuro of taste sensation. These two bad boys were born to tag team your mouth with an elbow drop of soaring flavour.

Did I mention I've become kind of a salad zealot of late?

Anyhow, it's been grand but I have some tuna mayo to whip up because this lunchtime, guess what this monkey's chowing down on. Why don't you join me? You won't regret it.

1 comment:

  1. Very strange about the tomato aversion - with you since birth and I don't remember being frightened by a tomato whilst pregnant either.