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September 30, 2013
Life on Planet Kathy
What's in Your Lunch Sack?
by Kathryn H. Kidd

September was a lean month on Planet Kathy. Make no mistake about it — since Fluffy lost his job in February, we haven’t actually had any months that haven’t been lean. But September was so lean that we were counting pennies. We counted them so well that when we reached the last week of the month, I still had enough allowance money left over to take Fluffy out to lunch at a place that wasn’t a secret shopper assignment. It was a real treat to come home from the meal and not have to write a report to pay for it!

Fluffy found a coupon for a restaurant where we usually can’t afford to eat, so we spent quite some time looking at the menu online and anticipating what we might order. Fluffy considered a wedge salad — his favorite — until I choked at the price.

Who pays $9.95 for a wedge of iceberg lettuce, anyway? I told Fluffy we could buy two cups of clam chowder for less than one wedge salad, and then we could make wedge salads at home. He looked skeptical. He had never heard of people actually making wedge salads at home. “Do you know what the ingredients are?” he asked tenuously.

Once again, I was reminded that Fluffy and I may have been born only six weeks apart, but we came from galaxies far, far away. He grew up eating strange and curious things like yogurt. I grew up where the only salads we ate were made with iceberg lettuce that had been cut into wedges, garnished with thin slices of tomatoes or onions or both, and then drizzled with Roquefort dressing.  In other words — wedge salads.

Yes, we ate Roquefort dressing — not bleu cheese dressing, and certainly not blue cheese dressing. I can’t speak for every family in New Orleans, but even though we were too poor to pay the telephone bill, our family consumed only the stuff that came from those caves in France, and those sheep.

(I remember when I was in high school, and New Orleans-area restaurants started charging fifty cents extra if people wanted Roquefort dressing on their salads. This was a real hardship for our family. Putting it as tactfully as I can, Mother was not a gourmet chef. Because she didn’t like to cook and we didn’t like to eat what she did cook, our family went to restaurants as often as we could afford it — more often than we could afford it, actually. Adding five little servings of Roquefort to the bill increased the tab by $2.50.

(I don’t know how accurate this is, but according to the Dave Manuel Inflation Calculator $3 in 1965 money would be $18.52 in today’s money. Even so, other kinds of salad dressing were not an option. We in our family really liked our Roquefort.)

So when Fluffy asked if I knew how to make a wedge salad, I said yes without any hesitation. (Would you like anchovies or capers on that wedge salad, Mr. Kidd?)

Wedge salads were the salads of my coming-of-age years. In fact, I remember getting to college and marveling over salads where the lettuce was cut up before it was put into a salad bowl. I was so grateful that at long last, I didn’t have to cut my salads with a knife.

Fluffy had a good laugh over that when I told him. Here he was, thinking of wedge salads as a luxury. At the same time, I had always thought of wedge salads as a chore. For me, the luxury was being able to eat a salad with fork or with fingers (as renowned chef James Beard used to do), never having to rely on a knife to cut the lettuce at tableside.

He reminded me of a story we heard in the village of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. Yarmouth was a shipbuilding town, but it was also home to numerous lobstermen. The prosperous shipbuilders’ children used to make fun of the fishermen’s children because of what they brought for lunch every day. The rich kids, you see, got to eat bologna sandwiches. The poor kids had to settle for lobster rolls.

Talking about wedge salads and shredded lettuce salads and bologna sandwiches and lobster rolls reminded both of us how important it is to be grateful for whatever we have. Who knows what parts of our own lives would be considered luxuries by people who are carrying a different sort of sack lunch, or perhaps no lunch sack at all?

Just the fact that you can read this column means you are more blessed than much of the world’s population. Sometimes before we complain we need to put things in their proper perspective. Then we can replace our self-pity with gratitude.

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