Before we met, the vegetable intake in my husband life was limited to tiny bit of celery in the tuna salad he bought at Gelson’s supermarket along with the cabbage found drenched in mayonnaise in their creamy coleslaw (which is pretty good, by the way). Vegetables played a much bigger role in my life, growing up in Japan, where vegetables most often referred to strange root vegetables. Like every girl on the planet, I love salad, but I find my definition of what makes up a salad is much different than my American husband’s. When I say ‘salad’, I’m referring to the dish made of actual vegetables, as opposed to the caloric concoctions that are labelled salad, but could feed a tiny village for a week.So does my husband really think his favorite salad, The “Wedge of iceberg lettuce” from Stefan’s L.A. Farm in Santa Monica is a health food? Probably, as Stefan’s staff does give you a healthy amount of bacon and blue cheese. How can you miss with mountains of crispy bacon and blue cheese crumbled on a bed of iceberg lettuce? Crunchy and refreshing, and did I mention bacony? Yes, my husband IS Jewish, but he has the utmost respect for the traditions and meat of all cultures.
One of the biggest shockers when I moved to the U.S. was seeing raw spinach being the basis for a salad. We NEVER ate spinach raw in Japan. Instead, the lettuce in a salad was usually iceberg. At my parents’ house, the foundation of lettuce was usually topped with some kind of seafood or ham plus cucumbers, tomatoes, and asparagus or broccoli (never raw). It’s probably not a surprise for you to hear that Japanese portions are smaller than those in America, with a regular Japanese salad being about a size of side salad here. Now, from this frame of reference, imagine my joy and confusion when I saw Stefan’s iceberg wedge for the first time. It’s huge. Almost half a head of lettuce, and enough bacon to satisfy a lumberjack. The lettuce is more like a garnish than anything resembling a salad. On top of that, a creamy dressing. But before you head for your cholesterol medicine, remember, it’s a salad, and by definition, salads are healthy, right? Marketing genius!
I found an early Wedge Salad recipe from early 20th century, and through this research, I found out, unfortunately for my husband, that the ingredient that gives a wedge salad its identity is NOT the bacon. It’s actually the creamy dressing with other toppings being optional–such as diced tomatoes, onions or some nuts and even a boiled egg. The dressing must be blue cheese mainly roquefort. But throw away the rulebook, because for us, bacon makes or breaks this salad. Don’t believe me? Just ask the poor waitress at a well known Hawaiian restaurant chain who had the nerve of bringing my husband a piece of lettuce sprinckled with Bacos, after the menu promised a wedge salad covered in crispy bacon.