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  • Writer's pictureSusan Welsh

My Salad Days

It's likely, the salad bar will permanently go the way of the dinosaur post-pandemic. I've never been much of a fan of this self-serve model, except for a few years in the mid-'80s. Back then a favorite restaurant of mine was an elegant oceanfront restaurant in Malibu called Moonshadows, which had a marvelous salad bar. It's where I first discovered the wonder of chickpeas on a salad, piling my plate high with them and anchoring it all in a pool of Ranch Dressing.

The salad bar of the '80s exemplified that decade of excess and the zeitgeist of the times. Girls just wanted to have fun and we were living in a material world. I don't remember, was I a material girl? It's likely. I was living on a campus encircled in palm trees, sitting atop a grand view of the Pacific Ocean aspiring to be a Hollywood actress for a minute or two. It was hard not to believe in that kind of magic when I'd see at least a dozen big stars with every trip to Ralph's supermarket—Pierce Brosnan picking up an LA Times, Margot Kidder in the checkout aisle, and a multitude of kids in my classes, the sons and daughters of parents whose names got first billing in the movies.

Larry Stone opened Chuck's Steakhouse in 1967

Paul Wellman

There are many who credit themselves with the birth of the salad bar but the two that go back the furthest are Chuck's Steak House in Waikiki, advertising it's salad bar in 1959, the same year Hawaii achieved statehood and The Cliffs in Springfield, Illinois. Arguably, it was Norman Brinker who took it mainstream with the opening of his Steak and Ale restaurant in 1966 featuring a serve-yourself salad bar. Brinker's portfolio included everything from the West Coat drive-through Jack in the Box to the neighborhood pub chains Bennigan's and Chili's. In a 2002 interview, Brinker explained the philosophy and appeal of the salad bar: "It occupied guests during the wait between placing orders and receiving entrees, and it created a greater sense of value and customization.

Lots of salads for me these days—trying to get back to fighting weight. One of our favorites is this Avocado & Hearts of Palm Chop Chop Salad (Ensalada de Aguacate y Palmitos) recipe from our favorite chef, Pati Jinich, a salad that will go nicely with a glass of tequila later. After all, it's National Tequila Day. We will sample Espolòn Edad 6 Años, a tequila that's a tribute to the 19th-century printmaker José Guadalupe Posada whose most famous works are his calaveras (skulls), satirical commentaries on the social and political injustices of his time.

This special edition bottle pays tribute to the Barro Negro, an ancient Oaxacan form of pottery that is prized for its cultural roots and unique beauty. We will save some for special occasions and drink some tonight, a sense of gratitude in every sip. Right now life feels fragile and it's good to pay tribute to this day, this hour, this moment. Salud!

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