Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Salad Bar

Today, dear traveler, we shall venture into the land of the salad bar, a glorious and wondrous place for dieters. Please keep hands and arms inside the bus as I assume the role of tour guide, enlightening you with tips for better consumption.

There are two types of bars: one consists of glass bowls of leafy lettuce, crinkle-cut carrots, and sliced celery, nested in clear cutlery that frustratingly swirl about in craters of ice, making it impossible to use the supplied (always incorrect) utensil to retrieve anything. Periodically, baby corn or garbanzo beans add some taste to this bland assortment of fibrous, flavorless, foods. Since such a salad bar is indeed simply a "salad bar," there is no reason to maximize intake. Just grab a small plate and be done. After all (I don't mean to be cynical), who cares?

However, the hosts of heaven sing when we spy a long-row, deluxe, salad bar, whereby tomatoes and mushrooms are present merely to give the title "salad bar" a smidgen of authenticity. Upon moving down the aisle, twisting and bending to avoid the annoying "sneeze shield" (which is never correctly placed) we venture into exciting terrain, commencing with olives (green and black), pickles, pasta salad, macaroni salad, potato salad, and carrot salad. This hodgepodge of sub salads is reason enough to rejoice; yet the rumbling joy in one's belly is merely beginning.

We leave the concept of "salad" in our wake as we can load our plate with thick fried potatoes, tater rounds, French fries, and mashed potatoes. A multi-cultural experience commences as fried chicken, mini-tacos, pizza, and egg rolls share space with sushi, tempura, and spaghetti; leaving just enough room for a bowl of cheddar cheese, cream of potato, or taco soup.

While steadying precariously this collected cornucopia of caloric courses, add crackers (saltine or breadstick), bread, rolls, and a bagel; each slathered with butter, cream cheese, or peanut butter. Hang from the thumb, the wire tray compilation of aluminum tins holding a treasure trove of flavored jams, jellies, and preserves.

With experience, one can further learn to balance chocolate, vanilla - or the more exotic tapioca pudding. A second bowl allows for a choice of three flavors of ice cream, chocolate syrup, maraschino cherries, and of course whipped cream.

One might wonder why I have strayed from discussing salad dressings (next to the impulse items: bacon bits, croutons, sunflower seeds, raisins, peanuts, and crispy fried noodles). It would be wrong; after all, one chooses salad bars to watch one's weight.

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