A Salad For Lovers

I put this together for a Valentine’s Day article. Treat it somewhere between seriously and a laugh.

Read this with your lover, to your lover, or on your own, thinking of your lover. Not the person you’d like to be your lover. The person you’ve actually done it with. Somebody with whom you’ve shared everything and the kitchen sink. Somebody you love; somebody who loves you. No matter how old you are, lover (20, 30, 40, 80, 100), once you’ve had it, you want to have it again. You want to share the flavours, the energy, the freshness, the passion, the moment. You want to put your hands in, your mouth in, your heart in.

We’re talking salad here. The ultimate food of love. It glistens. It crackles. It’s oily. It’s sharp enough to take your breath away. It changes every time you look at it. It stands up straight, and shines; then it sags, and dulls. It’s no good cold, and it’s no good hot. You think you need to add a lot to it, but you don’t. The simpler it is, the better. But one-leaf salads soon get dull. You hop in, and you hop out. But many leaves, tiny leaves, coloured leaves, you can’t let go. You pick at them, playing with them, working them around the bowl, until they are ready and you are ready. Then, when the bowl is done, you wipe it down with your fingers. Licking them to get the last trace of virgin oil, and herbs, and spice, and a tear of leaf. And suddenly you realise that she is doing the same. And she realises that you are doing the same. Each of you working your fingers through the oil. Making the bowl shine, with traces of your fingers left behind. Making your eyes shine.

handful of baby spinach leaves

handful of watercress

handful of rocket leaves

some shreds of oak leaf lettuce

some shreds of radicchio

a mix of fresh herbs from your handful of lamb’s lettuce garden (tarragon, basil, thyme, handful of mustard cress parsley and co.), chopped roughly

3 dessertspoons virgin olive oil

½ dessertspoon balsamic vinegar


black pepper


Call your lover. ‘Hey babe,’ you say, across the room, by fax, by phone. ‘Feel like salad with me?’


Prepare the ingredients (i). You will need to remove any traces of dirt from your greens by lightly washing and then carefully drying the leaves. Do it between dry towels.


Prepare your ingredients (ii). Put on the CD, at just the right volume. Something you remember. Neil Young? The Beatles? Madonna? Mozart? Louis Armstrong? Cole Porter? All of them on multiplay?


Prepare the ingredients (iii). At table, two plates, at right angles. White plates. Shining silver.


The door bell rings. ‘Hi babe. Hey, you look beautiful.’ Make sure the greens are lusciously displayed on the bench, dry, ready for the bowl. ‘A glass of champagne?’


Prepare a large bowl, one that is larger by at least a third than the volume of the greens. Pour in the oil, the vinegar and the herbs, and season with salt and black pepper. Finish the champagne. You won’t need any more. Taste the dressing. You should feel the flavours come at you, one after the other on your deliciously clean and fresh palate, invigorated by the bubbly: first the oil, and the herbs, and the black pepper, and then the salt, and last of all the vinegar. Amend the balance to your tastes.


‘Hey babe,’ you say, gently, ‘help me mix the salad.’ And you toss in the greens and you work them around together, hands in, and hands out, tossing gently, until the greens are coated, just, with the dressing. Then toss in some more herbs. Lick your fingers. Just do it.

NOTE: Better fruiterers are supplying pre-mixed and very good salad greens, and selling them by the kilo. Measure them by the handful.

WINE: What can I say? Have a glass of richly chilled methode champenoise. Quickly.