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This post is also called “Cottages: the enemy of salads everywhere.”

Wayne, Baby T and I went north on Friday: Lunch was a breakfast burrito that I ate on the run (from my local favourite, Espresso Mi Vida) while picking up groceries for the getaway. We were gunning it, to get out of the city before the traffic got too thick.

After a frantic packing session and a good fight, we were on the road on time (only half an hour off-schedule, which is spectacular for Wayne and I, and only possible with fighting). Still, it was well past dark when we finally reached the cottage, so supper was takeout Chinese. I respect you too much to lie: There wasn’t a vegetable in sight in my supper (Combo #4 – heavy on the chicken balls and red sauce). Dessert was Neapolitan ice cream with chocolate sauce. Cottage, dude. That’s what you do there.

After putting the baby to bed and digesting for some time, the men arrived. It was a boys’ weekend, a belated celebration for Wayne’s (and our friend Ric’s) birthday. I was the only female present, and only because I hold the keys to the place.

It was a privileged slot: Those men could cook! One of them, a Belgian, fed us a brunch on Saturday that was three hours in the making: the best crèpes I’ve ever had (one was cinnamony apple and cheddar; the other was BLT with a twist). As I watched the greatness of this brunch unfold, I was too absorbed to even think about making a side salad of any sort to serve with it.

I was in charge of supper (Giadia’s mascarpone pasta and Norm’s classic Italian chicken wings), but fortunately, the Belgian stepped up again, offering to take over the salad course. And he nailed it, with a perfectly balanced maple vinaigrette over a salad of romaine, shallots, slivered apple, almonds, cashews and raisins.

I wish I could have photographed the 12 exiled raisins that Wayne pushed to the edge of his plate like poison insects threatening to contaminate everything. But the camera died the moment after the salad was captured:

I, the Raisin Avenger, was in salad heaven. When dinner was done, the boys leaned back in their chairs while I plunged into the bottom of the salad bowl with the giant wooden tosser to scoop out every last bit. It’s exquisite to be served someone else’s dressing. You get so sick of your own. It’s like your own monkey brain, doing Great Expectations with grocery lists in your head; sometimes you just need a Jesus break from it.

With that in mind, I’ll wrap this, but I encourage you to 1) Make one of your friends swap a jar of homemade dressing with you, to keep you from getting bored of your salads, and 2) come back tomorrow to read about the delicious bowl I’m making tonight with a jar of dressing that Gelstein gave me. It’s built around a Jamie Oliver number called Crunchy Thai Salad, and it’s going to be a delicious kickstart to a redemptive, leafy week.

Just kidding. It was actually a leftovers salad for lunch today: the chicken, the quinoa, and (yes, somehow tinned-tasting and petrified) green beans from the cafeteria salad bar.  But since no one (how is it possible?) has yet raked me over the coals for yesterday’s Fried Chicken Salad, I figured a little more wise-assery would be tolerated.

The real challenge starts tomorrow, my day off and the beginning of a wild weekend away. There will be chicken wings and Giada’s crazy, creamy mascarpone penne – but I’ll find a way to slot the greens in somehow. I’m out of range tomorrow and Saturday, but I’ll be back here on Sunday with the whole truth.

In the meanwhile: your supper-salad ideas. Keep them coming.

And what a salad it was – “the most unsalady salad we’ve had so far,” as Wayne put it.

This one was inspired by a hilarious and health-conscious co-worker, KR, whose lunches I’ve regularly envied. Every day, she brings with her to the office an interesting vegetable-and-carb and-protein assemblage in a dear little Maoist-style steel lunch box. I had been pining for something nearly as good in the weeks I spent dragging up dreadful salad-bar containers from the cafeteria, from which everything tastes tinned or petrified.

During a lineup meeting last week, KR was sitting to the right of me, finishing up one of these lunches, so I quizzed her on the contents of the box. It was quinoa (healthy protein), kale (superfood), red pepper (antioxidant), and fried chicken (sweet Jesus!), in a lemon vinaigrette. I knew I wanted in on that action!

As I mentioned yesterday, I did all the prep work the night before, which made for a quick supper tonight: The quinoa was ready, the kale had been parboiled, the very thin chicken cutlets (and slices of tofu for Wayne) had been salt-and-peppered, dipped in a couple of beaten, salt-and-peppered eggs, then breaded and tucked in the fridge, between layers of parchment in a Tupperware. And for fun – high on the narcissistic glory of feeling in control of the world because I was making dinner a day ahead – I had placed a few squashed cloves of garlic in a little dish of olive oil.

All that was left tonight was to fry the chicken (which Wayne did while I made my way home from work), sautée the kale for a minute or two in the garlic and oil from yesterday, and put our yummy salad bowls together:

We drizzled leftover Cobb vinaigrette over the quinoa. I only have the one rushed photo because it smelled so good.

And don’t you fight me on salad status. People eat rice salads, and potato salads – why not a grain salad with fried chicken? I consumed half a bunch of kale with it, for god’s sake.

And not to change the subject, but a vegetarian who’ll fry your chicken? (You didn’t think I’d let that one go.) Could there be a better foil.

Tonight: Exquisite Italian Tuna Salad with arugula, marinated purple onion and walnuts, dressed with olive oil, lemon juice and salt. Could have eaten two of them. (And a happy Wayne would like to note that tonight’s walnut-and-tuna pairing more than made up for the gag-inducing memory of yesterday’s cheddar-sardine incident.)

The unanticipated upside of having a raw supper salad is that dinnertime was early! With the time I saved not cooking for supper tonight, I’m doing some serious prep for dinner tomorrow: the quinoa is on the stovetop, I’ll be sautéeing kale once this post is up, and the chicken is getting breaded and fried.

Pictures, and the full story, tomorrow.

The icebergy Tupperware satisfied! It satisfied me, at least; Wayne took his salad to work but forgot his dressing in the fridge at home, so he had to resort to plan B: pouring of tin of sardines in hot sauce over his greens. “It all kind of worked. Except, when the cubes of cheddar cheese and sardines mixed, it tasted like rotten fish. Rotten fish salad.” Let’s hear it for Wayne, for putting the challenge in the 30-Day Challenge.

Tomorrow: Arugula and Italian Tuna. On Wednesday, we’ll do something new, and I can’t say it won’t involve fried chicken.

Here we go: It’s 11:08 p.m., and with salad in mind for lunch tomorrow, I have, in the past 12 minutes, whirred up a batch of my favourite Cobb vinaigrette – enough to last Wayne and I for days – washed a head of iceberg (the Kraft dinner of lettuces, but after three weeks of All Sorts and mashed potatoes, we need a gateway drug), put a pot of eggs on to boil, macerated a few thinly sliced purple onions, dug the black olives out of the fridge, and tossed into my Tupperware the ingredient that always makes a salad more seductive when I’m not in the mood for it, the one thing that can stop me from spurning my greens for the glycemic thrill of a great big sexy sangwich, and that is cheese (little cubes of organic white cheddar this time around).

Once Wayne peels the eggs, our lunch salads for tomorrow will be ready to go. If I wasn’t in such a rush to get to bed, I’d take and post pictures of our giant, icebergy Tupperwares and I’d also find a funnier way to set up the story about how Wayne derailed my plans for a supper salad tonight by wooing me with sushi.

We were driving home from my sister’s gig in the freezing early evening, discussing our cold, salady supper plans, when Wayne pitched sushi with surprising resoluteness. The idea of all that salty, chewy rice weakened me in an instant. I resisted with a whine in my voice:  “But they’re counting on me,” I whinged, and, “I promised them,” and, “Who’s  going to bother coming back to read about the challenge if I can’t deliver on Day 1?”

But he was already pulling into a slushy parking spot on Bloor Street, muttering about how sushi is really actually a “salad” made of fish and rice with soy-sauce dressing. While I do plan to stretch the definition of Salad this month, I promise I will never go that far.

So, let tomorrow be Day 1. Stock your fridge with romaine and leaf and arugula and anything else vegetal that appeals to you, raw or cooked. There will be quinoa. There will be beans involved, and goat cheese, and roast chicken, and ravigote dressing, and something kooky called Insalata Mexicana. There will be many exciting new recipes to try, though some days we’ll have to repeat old favourites (let’s be reasonable here), and some days it’ll be whatever’s in the fridge.

After all, we aren’t perfect salad people. How could we be? All the world’s molasses bread is stacked against us. But there’s always the fear of scurvy to keep us on track – and, at least this month, we’ll have each other. So please post your own favourite salad instructions here; we will need them. I hereby promise a really delicious prize for the best one.

If you’ve been wondering what’s for supper for the past three months, join the club. When I went back to work in October, I fell off the train and landed in a hole full of chocolate chips, bottomless toast, and frozen pizza.

Now I’m freshly back from Christmas in Newfoundland, where the majority of my non-meat intake was composed of white mashed potato, fried fish

Gene’s off-the-charts molasses bread,

Cool Whip,  All Sorts, and toutons, little pieces of pan-fried bread dough. White flour, chewy on the outside, covered in maple syrup. Out of control:

Naturally, the scales are tipping, and here we are, entering the year of the lithesome rabbit. And so I propose a challenge – a 30-day challenge: a meal salad a day for 30 days. And we start…well, not tonight. It’s Wayne’s birthday and we’re going out for Chinese, the most salad-less cuisine I can think of.

But no – positive attitude. Let’s do start today. Let’s make a big jar of salad dressing right now. (I offer up the satisfyingly large-yield and perfect-every-time Cobb dressing I’ve written about before.) Lunch or dinner can be a standard bowl of leaf lettuce with tuna, olives and onions. Then we’ll meet back here Sunday morning and a make a plan for the week. Who’s with me?

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Words of Wayne

Look at what Wayne discovered on his breakfast plate (medium: banana string). It's the Playboy Banana. I ask you, Dr. Freud: How does he find this stuff? If he could have, he would have put it in his cherished Food Oddities mug, along with the treble-clef pretzel and the Bill Clinton potato chip.

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