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Let vegetables be vegetables already

Overdressed salads take away from the natural flavor of greens

I'm done with deli salads. I've been doing this thing where I mean to make myself something for lunch before I venture out of the house into the world where I work, but I never seem to be able to scrounge up enough minutes. Instead, I end up spending too much money for sub-par snacks at various coffeeshops and delis between the two jobs I hold out in the physical realm. Being a mostly vegan lover of all things plant-based and edible, I've gone through quite a few pre-prepared salads. And I've come to the following conclusion: most people have no idea how to accent a vegetable's flavor.

I've seen perfectly good bean salads ruined by some unspeakable syrup draped over the aging legumes. I've seen cucumbers and tomatoes glued together with weird tangy dressing. And I've seen so many perfectly good greens plain ruined by salt-clogged cream-based sauce. It seems we've become so attached to the idea that bare plants aren't “real food” that we go ahead and smother the good unprocessed stuff with horrible synthetic muck, just so we can feel like we're eating something that isn't a vegetable.

Where on earth did we get the idea that stuff that grows out of the ground doesn't have its own flavor? A salad might not taste like much if you're basing it around pale iceberg lettuce that's hardly more than water, but throw some fresh, green arugula into the middle of that bowl, sprinkle it with black pepper and arm it with a sharp extra-virgin olive oil and you've got a salad that will kick your mouth halfway back around your head. Cut open a lemon and squeeze it out over that same cucumber and tomato blend and you've already got yourself a bright, springy, full meal. And don't even get me started on swiss chard, spinach or bok choy. I could eat all the darkest of greens in the world, buck naked, all the time.

Bad food may taste good, possibly even because it's bad, but that doesn't mean the inverse is necessarily true. We don't have to drown the healthy stuff in sugar, dairy or other harmful additives just to get them to taste like all the stuff that makes us sick. Start with good quality produce and you'll find yourself with a meal that's as tasty, filling and interesting as any thoroughly prepared dish—no drenching in dressing required.