Over 20 years ago, when I was married to my ex-husband B, we went to supper with one of his old college friends. Let’s call her Lucy. She had lived in Italy for a while and this is where she'd met her Italian husband. We’ll call him Maximus. They had a little girl – very pretty and bright so I think that Bella would be a good name to protect her privacy.
Somehow the evening was awkward. Perhaps they had had a row? Possibly we had – I just don’t remember.
They were living in a rented flat. Maximus didn't speak much English. Lucy and I were a bit apprehensive about each other. My marrige was rocky and she was a confidante.
On arrival we all sat at a small table, beside a window and sipped wine. Then Lucy announced
“It’s time to dress the salad.”
I imagined that she would rustle something up in a jam jar. But she bought a large bowl to the table along with all her ingredients.
After about ten minutes I realised that here ‘dressing the salad’ was something of a ritual. The dressing was created with enormous care and then the salad ingredients added one by one. I watched as every leaf became coated with a thin layer of oil and vinegar. Maximus nodded, and watched with a glazed and slightly reverent look. The leaves were tossed and teased within the glass bowl for minutes that seemed to stretch for hours.
Meanwhile B was playing with Bella. Some sort of simple hiding and snatching game. She was loving it. Screaming with joy when she won. Suddenly B took advantage of his size and dexterity. He won.
Bella shrieked with disbelief, hurt and rage. The salad was forgotten.
“She has to learn how to lose.”
“But she’s only three!”
Maximus reached forward and lifted his child gently onto his lap. As he rocked her his tone was protective. Bella was wary when she glanced at B. I just wanted to get up and walk away into the dusk.
Bella's sobs were long forgotten when we eventually sampled the salad. It was good but not exceptional. Perhaps it had been tainted with the kerfuffle between the two B’s?
Since then, whenever I make a salad dressing I think of that dark room, the sunlight, that salad bowl and Bella’s sobs.
Cathy from the good blog Growing Curious left a pertinent comment on my last post.
“What do you dress your salads with?”
And there's the rub.
I hate to admit this but I’ve never made a great salad dressing. I just don’t seem to have the knack. So I need help here – I’d love to hear your ideas for a good salad dressing and I can guarantee that Danny would appreciate your generosity.
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