Recently we had dinner with friends at a restaurant that features “An Endless Salad Bar.”
From my point of view, the only thing endless was the endless wait as I not-so-patiently and oh-so-slowly approached the “assembly line.”
I couldn’t help but observe the idiosyncrasies of the people inching along ahead of me. Some fidgeted like me, others sort of rocked from one leg to the other. Regardless they all shared the same expressions of anticipation as they moved along. More interesting though were the actions of those who had reached the promised land. They can be seen at any salad bar.
There is the ponderer who can’t decide which line to wait in when there is a split. There is the intruder who thinks he or she doesn’t need to go to the end of the line. There is the talker who constantly stops to chat with someone as those behind come to a full stop. There is the thinker, often with chin resting on hand as he contemplates the array of choices in front of him. There is the procrastinator who, unlike the thinker, who starts to select an item, but returns it to its container before starting the selection process all over again. There is the sampler who picks and tastes every item.
And of course there is the stacker who carefully arranges his plate so that he not only got as much on as possible, but carefully compartmentalized his selections. And finally there is the piler, who gets as much on the plate as possible without regard to what and where, (Do you remember when piling on was a 15 yard penalty in the NFL?)
No question, I am a piler. And if records were kept like the number of hot dogs consumed at Coney Island, or if the plates were weighed, I’d be among the leaders of the pack.
On a recent visit to one of our local establishments with a salad bar that included such other foods as breads, cheeses, fruits and even soups, the line was understandably and agonizingly slow--so much so that there was a temptation to grab an item or two off the plates of those unfortunate diners seated along the line and very much in the line of fire.
Instead I allowed my mind to wander about such thoughts as who invented the salad bar. My first experience with one was in Bethesda, MD in the mid-sixties at a steakhouse called Sir Walter Raleigh.
Could it have been that the British aristocrat who is reputed to have introduced tobacco to Europe also introduced the salad bar to America? Probably not because I have not seen tobacco on a salad bar as yet although I have seen tabasco sauce and once found a half-smoked cigar thoughtlessly left at the beginning of the bar right near the plates.
And, speaking of plates, some salad bars offer chilled plates, some small plates, some bowls and some including the aforementioned Sir Walter Raleigh Inns, pewter plates.
But, plates aside, the salad bar has evolved in many ways. Many offer breads, cheeses, fruits -- everything from soup to nuts -- often with a choice of soups and nuts.
But back to the creator of the salad bar. Was there an Earl of Salad like there was an Earl of Sandwich who was an English aristocrat? After all, we do have salad “earl” as they in Brooklyn. Certainly it must have been a European. After all we have French Dressing, Italian Dressing, Russian Dressing, but no American Dressing.
Perhaps the salad bar just evolved from a lettuce leaf sort of like the butterfly evolved from a caterpillar -- although I have seen neither of them at a salad bar.
And, if it is a bar, where is the booze? Wine vinegar is the closest I’ve found unless you count the brandy in the peaches, the rum in the rum-buns or the gin in the ginger.
Oops. Got to go. My wife just called me to dinner and said the salad bar is open.