How Tim Learned to Love Salad…A Valentine’s Blog (and recipe)!

1lettuceWe’re not all alike. I have loved salad for most of the last twenty years, maybe more.  Not so, my husband and best friend Tim Bennett.  He grew up a meat and white-carbs guy.
(photo credit )
Tim and I met when he was in his late forties. All of his life he had eaten food that was, well, to be blunt, it was mostly brownish. He would joke when I made meals that were mostly green. He would ask me where the food was. Back then, over ten years ago, it was only partly a joke.

You see, Tim doesn’t eat for taste. He eats for fuel. He inhales it in great mouthfuls with as much subtle enjoyment as when he fills the tank of our Subaru with unleaded gasoline.

Whether his food looks mostly beige and brown, which means wheat products and meat with the occasional beige root vegetable, or arrives in a swirl of vibrant colors, tastes and textures is not very important, or even noticeable, to him.  I delight in green, orange, red, crunchy, smooth, chewy, sweet, sour, bland, salty, bitter, and/or spicy.  I take my time. I enjoy the variety and subtlety of food. But that is not important to Tim. What’s important to him is that it is available in sufficient quantities that he feels full after eating 90 miles an hour for 10 minutes or so.

I know, it’s hard to imagine sharing a table with such a creature, but I’ve come to understand and accept this difference between us and to love him anyway. And I’ve learned from him to appreciate for myself that spoonful of peanut butter, AKA “just fuel,” when other things are more pressing than eating a real meal.

What’s interesting is that, like most of us, Tim is a creature of habit. I discovered that all it took was repeated and consistent exposure to good heathy food with some familiar flavors, over and over, day after day, before he actually began to WANT it.  These days if salad is not included in our main meal, which is rare, he inquires about it. He still makes jokes when he can’t find anything on the plate that he used to consider food. But he’s come so far. He’s come to expect and even request my favorite food: salad.

How did he come to actually look forward to, and miss, salad when it wasn’t there?

The first trick I learned was to put aside all shame and think of fresh, crisp, yummy salad greens as for him just a “salad dressing conveyance system.”  For Tim it had to start with the dressing, not with the greens. For  purist vegetable munchers this is blasphemy.  But if you want the people you love to cultivate the habit of fresh, raw, green food, you suspend your fundamentalist vegetable dogmas in favor doing whatever it takes to get them to put nutritious food in their mouths and establish a habit of eating that way.

Tim has, in the ten years we’ve lived together, completely changed his eating. I’m thrilled of course. But it’s been a wonderful lesson in love: Love requires patience, vision, acceptance, gentleness, truth, and sometimes fierceness. Perhaps at another time I will write about how we are fierce with one another when that is needed.  For now, I’ll just say, he’s the best, for me. He’s consistently listened, supported, worked to understand, been willing to grow, stood up to me when necessary, and been a steady rudder through my rough seas. He’s my Valentine and I feed him REALLY well, as he does me.

What follows is the dressing recipe that turned that Midwestern meat and potatoes guy into a salad freak:

Lemon juice, fresh garlic, salt, fresh ground pepper, sometimes a little Dijon mustard, sesame tahini and water.  I make it a quart at a time. It is tangy, nutty, salty, and a tad spicy. I don’t have exact amounts but it doesn’t matter because it always works as long as you have a blender. You can make incredible salad dressing faster and cheaper than Paul Newman. It’s not a local product but when you consider you save the trip to the store it does have it’s carbon-offset potentials.

1 cup lemon juice (preferably organic but whatever)

1-2 cloves of fresh

Salt, maybe a Tablespoon.

Fresh ground pepper, a bunch

Dijon mustard (if you like a kick, but not too much)

Turn the blender on blend and get all of that well mixed.  Then start adding through the hole in the blender top

Sesame tahini: big glops until the blender mixes it all together and it’s no longer really liquid but kind of like a thick, whipped, mass.

Slowly start adding water until it is liquid again.  Taste it. If it seems too tart from the lemon juice add more tahini and then more water. Adjust for salt by adding more salt or some tamari.  Pour it into a quart mason jar to keep in your refrigerator.

That’s the dressing. The other thing that got Tim hooked on salad was toasted almonds. At first it was bread croutons but since I stopped eating wheat we’ve substituted almonds on our nightly salad and we love them!

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