Loathsome lettuce


Kevin Niederman

I used to eat a lot of salads at Union.

At heart, though, I am a meat eater. Back home my family’s diet consists almost entirely of various meats, fruits and vegetables. Steak and broccoli, chicken and carrots, pork and apple sauce. Things like bread, cheese or sugar are rare and treated as delicacies.

As a meat eater, I have a pretty big problem with fake meats. They’re … they’re just terrible. They don’t serve any purpose. They don’t work as substitutes and they don’t work as meaty nicotine patches.

As I continue to abstain from meat alternatives, I find myself with two major options left: a salad or bread and cheese. Everything else offered is either a side dish, snack, or contains the dreaded veggie meats.

I started with the salad. I’ve been to a health class or two, so I know I need all those good things that salads supposedly provide: fiber, vitamins, physique, energy, self-esteem. I had all my salad toppings and dressings and I was good to go.

And then I stopped.

I cannot handle the same salad every single day for the foreseeable future. Yes, I changed my toppings and dressings and whatnot, but the body of the salad remains the same. Whatever species of lettuce we offer, I don’t care to know. It may be healthy and tolerable for a couple days, but I’m slowly approaching the point where anything green will give me PTSD flashbacks to my first cafeteria salad.

Bread and cheese, on the other hand, enjoys quite the variety to keep interest peaked. I can have anything from a sandwich or Alfredo pasta to mozzarella sticks or deep fried ravioli. The list is extensive. I’m barely afforded the option to tire of any particular dish as the menu just keeps cycling along. And if nothing quite catches my fancy, there’s always the pizza, which also comes in a pleasing assortment.

It’s ridiculous. We are even offered a variety in our french fries! Sweet potato, shoestring, wedge, crisscut, curly, zig zag and others. If I can take the time to decide which type of Cheetos best suits my mood, or which Pop Tart, or gum brand, why can’t I choose my lettuce? Why can’t I have a choice in the food least likely to contribute to my own imminent death from congestive heart failure?

How can the salad bar compare to any of that when day after day nothing changes and when the price of alternatives is so low? It’s a punishment for anyone who wants to eat the slightest bit healthier. If anyone on campus has a stroke I’ll know where my finger is pointing.

Earlier this semester, there were a couple notable times where the lettuce available for salads was switched to iceberg. As far as lettuce goes, iceberg is basically water. It is tasteless and only offers the salad a texture. I had a sixteen ounce salad that day, possibly the greatest salad of my life. I felt like it was the first food I’d ever eaten other than tanned leather and multivitamins.

That’s really all the salad bar needs: lettuce options. If the rest of the cafeteria can boast variety why can’t the salad bar? I’ve gained ten pounds this semester alone trying to avoid that lettuce. Instead of a giant basin of that pre-regurgitated cellulose, maybe several smaller trays with choices. I’ve seen this happen once this semester so far, and I want it to be an everyday happening.

All I’m asking is for the opportunity to be slightly less unhealthy. I don’t want to live forever; I just don’t want to have to drown every salad in ranch in a vain attempt to bleach out that appalling taste.

Kevin is a junior studying nursing.