Make Your Own Damn Salad Bar

I love making salad. I’m a white person, so I like the plain stuff (my husband mexícano always looks at it like, “But what did you cook?”). Rather than discuss the fine culinary skills of my ancestors, I’d like to just say this about something I’ve made a lot. You can make your own salad bar at home. Just chop stuff up, put it in the bowls, and leave it on the counter. I mean, am I late on this? I’ve been making salads for years and never thought of it before. Well, here’s how I’m doin’ it from now on, or at least once in a while, because we’ll be having un caldo, las calabasitas, unos nopales, and maybe I’ll try my hand at gorditas this summer (my husband loves those).

  • That’s resting chicken, seasoned with the usual salt, pepper, garlic powder
  • Jalapeños from my garden (hot as hell, by the way)
  • Block of cheese I grated
  • Celery
  • Chopped Almonds (those things really fly away when you chop ’em)
  • Croutons (I love croutons but they make it kind of like a posh salad for me, I don’t know why. If you can’t eat a salad without croutons, get out of the game).
  • I always put broccoli and zucchini (calabasita) in a salad. Zucchini has a great texture but alas, it’s not in this picture.
  • And a green apple from yesterday that Sergio wanted, but then didn’t want. It was fine, and clean. But have you had fruit in a salad? It’s really good too, I swear.
  • We also had Pita bread, which I warmed and cut in half. Then you can open it up into a kind of pocket, to fill with what you choose. You can skip this or add something else!

A person could make so many salad combinations this way, at home. It’s a lot of bowls to wash, I know, but it encourages everyone to help themselves. The family liked it, and they ate, so my salad bar’s closed for the night.

An Avocado for My Toast

Have you tried it yet? No, not the famed avocado toast (its good, we know). Have you tried stabbing an avocado pit with toothpicks, setting it in a small glass jar, half-filled with water, and waiting impatiently for a sprout? You know I have, and I’ve had quite a bit of success! Sadly, I’m still buying avocados from the store. Here’s why.

Last year I saved three avocado pits (is that the technical name? Anyway, you know what I’m talking about) and set them each, facing upwards, in small glass jars filled halfway with tap water. A couple of toothpicks are necessary but those are easily found. I then set the jars (recycled baby food jars work perfectly) on a dark shelf of a bookcase in my dining room. The large bookcase sits on the same wall as the French doors that lead to my patio, so all light enters the room from behind the bookcase. I then left the pits alone for about….three to four months (it took a very long time). The water would need changing about every week, but other than that I didn’t pay them much mind.

Anyone who has researched growing avocados from seed probably knows that an avocado bears fruit only after the avocado tree is mature enough to do so. I was prepared for the long haul and when I finally saw a taproot cracking through the seed to reach for the water, I was elated. Everyone in my family knew of the taproot’s progress and I soon had three taproots, growing at various rates (two shot out, the first was extremely reluctant to begin). I was extremely protective over them. Little green stems creapt out from the tops of the seeds. “Put it outside,” my husband, equally excited, would tell me.

“Not yet,” I would respond. “It needs to have some leaves first.”

Well, two of them started to grow a leaf. I still wouldn’t put them outside.

“When there are two leaves,” I said.

Finally, my plants had two leaves and I carefully planted them in their pots. The third plant soon ventured outside and all was well. Until my son, Sergio, became extremely interested in the spindly, would-be avocado trees.

The surviving avocado plant.

I have always allowed Sergio to water the plants and flowers. For me, it is a test in patience. For Sergio, a delightful experiment in one of Earth’s greatest elements (and he has learned a lot from this play but that’s another discussion). Well, there we were, gardening as a family. Sergio controlled the hose while I tended to other chores (probably composting). Papá was watching but apparently, not close enough. My three avocados were grouped together in their individual pots, a cluster in one corner of my raised garden beds.

Now, I had nurtured these seeds (pits) for about….SIX MONTHS. I had defended them from the dogs, from the intrigued toddler, even from curious family members (the most difficult foe at times). In about ten minutes, however, two of the three young trees were wiped out. I mean torn from the dirt, with leaves plucked off, skinny stems broken in half.

Sergio had moved on by the time we had noticed the destruction. I bounded across the yard when my husband called to me and asked what had happened to them.

“What did happen to them?!” I exclaimed. It was obvious what had happened to them but too late for any kind of action. I picked up the two pits and tried to replant them. Neither would go on to live. I moved the only survivor out of the hose’s path and to a more secluded spot of the garden.

Only I watered the avocado from then on. It survived that summer and almost all of the fall. I brought it in, placed it near a window and wrapped a rug around the pot (I guess to keep it warmer?). It was kept in our guest room. Unfortunately, I discovered its demise, once again via my husband’s questioning, some weeks into November. I threw up my hands and vowed to try again one day.

A fresh avocado pit, germinating in a bit of water.

So, I’m back to square one with another avocado seed. Let’s see if this one makes it and in several years from now, I just might have a homegrown avocado for that toast.

A Composting Confession

My compost pile has existed for almost three whole years now. I feel relief thinking about all the food I am keeping from the landfill. I’ve even used the dirt consistently this year: filling holes, building up the land around my pile, etc. But now, I want to do more.

Recently, I’ve been taking multiple, full buckets to the pile. These buckets are filled with all kinds of fruit and vegetable waste, leftover pasta and pizza, coffee grounds, expired dry goods, and some paper products (I won’t lie, I threw some shrimp pasta in, too). I am picky about the cardboard that I add because I’m not sure which boxes are treated and with what, or if they can be composted naturally. However, I’ve been somewhat ambitious in resolving another problem.

From the beginning I was faced with a dilemma that any pet owner is all too familiar with: what to do with, well…dog shit. We are supposed to pick it up and throw it away, right? And I usually do that, unless the dog relieves itself in a hidden or less traveled area. But it appalls me to pick up dog poop with a little (sometimes dyed or scented) plastic bag, wrap up the bag and tie it, and then throw it into the trash can, destined for the landfill. How will it decompose there? How will the flies reach it, or the air? Or the sun and rain? What happens to the poop inside of the plastic bag after five, ten years? These questions are disgusting to ponder but entirely interesting to me.

I know it is not safe to add a large amount of dog poop to the compost pile. An instinct of some kind tells me NOT to do it. What is seeping out of the dog poop? Will it mix into the dirt that I add to the vegetable garden? For those reasons, I don’t put the dog shit there. I started thinking of a place for a poop pile.

New grapevine grows around and over my dog poop pile. A few vines stretch toward a blue-painted trellis (bottom right).

After a lot of thought (I’ve actually been thinking about this for years and years), I started putting the dog waste at the back of the yard, in a separate area, beneath an old grapevine tangle and some junk trees, eternal victims of the invasive grapevine. Its darker here and the weeds grow where they can beneath the grapevine. As of yet, no one has noticed the new cloud of happy flies and I’ve kept a few warm, plastic bags out of the landfill.

The thing is, poop has been decomposing on Earth for…..well, I’m not sure how long, but there has to be a responsible way to do it. I’m just trying to do what I can.