“Salads! A cool relief on a hot summer’s day!” the food magazine says. I am here to tell you this is not true. Not the eating of the salads, which is actually a very good idea, heat or no heat. It’s the making of the salads that is a completely ridiculous thing to do when it’s thirty-three degrees Celsius in the shade.
Let’s take potato salad, for example. It requires peeling potatoes, a sweat inducing chore at the best of times. Then, you need to boil the potatoes, beside another pot full of eggs. In other words, that’s two burners going full blast. Until you start the cooking of the beans that have been soaking overnight for the bean salad. The legumes need to simmer for an hour-ish. On burners three and four.
While that’s going on, I get started on the spinach salad with strawberries and poppyseed dressing. “So unexpected. So delightful,” the demented culinary cultist says. Clearly, she was not alive in the 1980s. However, she does have a new riff: the salad requires not just sliced strawberries, but also oven-dried ones. From one’s very own oven. I cut them up as instructed, toss them with sugar, as instructed, and leave them to rest for half an hour on the counter, as instructed, while the potatoes finish cooking and the beans burble.
Turns out, ants really like strawberries, especially if they have been doused in sugar and left on a counter in an uncovered bowl. I look around to confirm that nobody is watching, pluck individual strawberry halves out of the bowl, flick the ants off, put the berries on a parchment-lined baking pan, and pop them in a two-hundred-degree oven for – wait for it – three-and-a-half hours. To be fair, that’s a mere hundred degrees more than the temperature registering on the thermometer outside my kitchen window.
Potatoes are done. Into the colander. “Douse with vinegar while still steaming,” the delusional recipe diva extolls. She was probably in prison with Martha Stewart. I’m hoping the vinegar will neutralize the sweat from my brow that’s also currently dousing the potatoes. Never mind. It’s time to rescue the boiled eggs and run them under cold water. Cold water! I’m surprised this magazine has ever heard of cold water, except to advise their readers to put it in a pot and heat it up.
I have now spent two hours (not counting bean soaking time) preparing the “no fuss” summer menu. I have a whole hour to kill before it’s time to retrieve the (hopefully) dried-out strawberries. I use this time wisely. To read more food magazines. “Make pizzeria pizza at home! If your oven goes to five-hundred degrees you can do it! Turn any hot soup into vichyssoise! Make your own artisanal lemonade with a brown butter reduction! Your burger really needs these caramelized onions – only forty-five minutes on the stove!” Right around now, I am contemplating how to use exclamation points as lethal projectiles.
But there’s one thing left to do. Make the poppy seed dressing. The cream cheese has been softening on the counter since the potatoes went in. Several hours now. I pick the package up and notice the corner of the foil wrapper has been opened. A chunk of cheese is missing. I catch a glimpse of Henry’s tail as he skulks away. Food processors move so fast they create a sterile environment, right? Dinner’s at seven. See you then.