Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Perpetual Salad Bowl--Going Beyond Your Comfort Zone

A Guest Post by Finn the Cooking Assistant (aka the dog picker)

"We all have to step outside our comfort zones once in awhile," I heard the Lady say years ago.  

I harbor no burning need to leave my comfort zone.  If I'd never been to the beach, I wouldn't sit around and moan about it or put it on some stupid bucket list.   Only a humans would think up things to do and places to go, without exploring the world right outside their own back doors.

Chew on that thought.

Sometimes when you aren't paying attention, even for just an instant, your comfort zone just slips away.  Like Alice in Wonderland.  I'll tell you a story about when I was young, then you can decide about the value of randomly leaving the comfort-zone ship.

Leaving the Zone

Four  years ago it was just the three of us hounds--Abe, the cranky old geezer, Badger, the wirey old opportunist and me, the newbie puppy who spent most of my free time patrolling the yard. I was deep into sniffing the fence line when I noticed the wide open gate.  I stopped for a second, staring at the driveway.   Then I stuck my head out cautiously and caught the scent of ripening vegetables, long past their prime. 

I followed the scent across the driveway.  Most of the vegetables were too far gone, but I found a decent cabbage core and ate that.  Not bad, but nothing I could live on.  I caught the scent of people and wandered up the driveway to see if I could find them.  This was the first time I  left the house behind without the Lady or Man.

Call me optimistic but I honestly imagined the world could be a piece of cake for a hungry hound.  

I couldn't find the people so I did a little exploring. 

Not far from our house is a construction site that's been going on for years.  It's on a route we often take when walking. Workers sometimes leave bits of discarded food, especially on weekends.  I've been to the place many times, but only tethered to the Lady.  

I struck out there, too.  No chip bags, sandwich bones or carelessly dropped tupperware containers. It's a crap shoot in the real world, but I put my nose to the ground and walked on determined to find some tasty morsel.   

I stopped a dog park where I met a couple Frisbee fanatics.  They had little time for more than minimal greetings.  I don't get the allure of balls, even Rin Tin Tin had a real toy.  These OCD retrievers hadn't a clue where we were, either.  They'd only wanted to retrieve the Frisbee.

I worked up an appetite.  So many empty containers, it's no wonder humans are fat.  If everyone tossed away half their burgers, diet books would quit selling and people would quit whining about losing weight.  

Attention: People if you're going to toss the containers, at least let the food go with it.  It's slim pickings for true street dogs and city raccoons.

What I discovered was this: sometimes you have to leave your comfort zone to discover what's important.

I walked and walked and somehow I ended up on my own street again.   I was very hungry, but just before I reached home, I saw the children that I'd smelled when I first left our driveway.   I love people,  so I took a detour to meet our neighbors.

Halfway down the driveway the children shrieked and raced into the backyard.  Playing a game, I thought, so I trotted after them and once I was in the backyard, a slim dark man was waving his arms and yelling at me. He was clearly pissed off about something, but what?  The children ran outside the gate and the man slammed the wooden gate in my face.  

Two men shouted something about a wild dog.  "Call 9-11!"  

I retreated to a space behind a large bush near the back fence and peered out. Two men came into the yard, waving sticks and poking bushes, until they came to the bush I sat behind.  I jumped out and raced to another bush, head down, shaking.  Were they going to kill me? 

Suddenly I heard Abe was baying and his bark was getting closer.  I never thought that geezer dog's bark would be music to my ears, but it was.

I heard the Lady's voice, and a man said, "Yes, we captured a dog.  It could be wild, how are we to know?  We called 9-11."  The lady mumbled something and the gate suddnly swung open.  

Cranky old geezer Abe strained at his leash and barked at me.  I sat shivering, staring at the Lady and Abe, still afraid to move just yet.

"FINN!" the Lady called.  She bent down and I raced to her. 

She leash snapped on my collar.   I held my head high as we walked past the man.  The children and women were peeking out the window.  The Lady went overboard repeating "Thank you so much!" to the man who had nearly killed me with a stick.

"Oh Finn," she cried, hugging me when we got out.

I'd never seen old Abe even leave the yard, but that's boy had a better nose than any bloodhound and  I got a new respect for the old hound, at least for a day, anyway.  Sometimes, if you don't pay attention, a journey can take you in  direction than the route you started on.  I'd had a taste of the outside world and it wasn't my last solo venture out in the world. (The story continues.)

The World of Salads

Food is another comfort zone for many humans and canines.  I didn't get many carrots or any lettuce in my first home, but there isn't any shortage of things that go into the salad bowl today and I'm game to try anything.  Salad  is often the main event in the evenings, especially when the weather turns warmer.

Management doesn't buy cheap fruits and vegetables and then go to movies or concerts.  Social events give way to locally grown organic vegetables. Good quality food comes first round here.

And that's the way salads should be.  How I'd love to be a human just so I could go to the market for fresh vegetables.  Willie Green's might be my favorite booth with all these carrots.

Lately I've been chewing up the arugula in our own yard.  It's a good thing Nash's Farm has enough to supply us.

This time of year,  Management is putting lots of greens in the garden.  I wish I could get out in our garden more often, but I'm not allowed without supervision.  Last year I lost my all-access pass when I picked too many sugar snap peas and raspberries.

And when I ate the flowers I didn't think I'd hear the end of it, until I wanted to shout TMI!  But maybe they've forgotten this season.  Humans have a problem with short term memory recalls, and that means I may have garden access again sometime soon.

If flowers are edible why isn't tree bark?

Sister Chloe has my back these days. I'm sure I can count on her sniffing my trail should I ever have the urge to visit our neighbors again.

So much to eat and so little time.

If you can't count on your pack when the chips are down, what's the point of life?

The Perpetual Salad

I'm grateful Management deems vegetables the primary food group.  We have no shortage of variety in the produce bin, where I'm not officially allowed to poke my head.  Let me just say, I know where the carrots are hidden in this house.

Composed salads entice the eyes, for humans. It's beautiful, humans say. They are in love with beautiful images. "You eat with your eyes first,"the saying goes.  Really?  Not for us canines.  It's the perfume of earthy beets and the light sweet aroma of pears combined with blue cheese that intoxicates the senses.  Obviously "You eat with your nose first." 

The human world is sight dependant, but seriously, as a foodie, if you could only have one, would you rather experience smell or sight in the world of food?  

I call this the perpetual salad because we have it in so many versions.  Add an avocado to something and immediatly crowds of people love it.  What is it about avocados and humans?  I'd go for the carrots or even the strawberries first.

The Perpetual Salad
(Serves 4)

1/4 cup vinegar (your choice), lemon, lime, or orange juice 
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 to 1 teaspoon honey
1/4 teaspoon mayonnaise or mustard
3 cloves fresh pressed garlic, or 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon herbs, such as basil, oregano, rosemary, dill (optional) 
Freshly ground sea salt and pepper to taste
1 large avocado, peeled, cored and diced
6 cups greens (if hearty greens like kale, remove tough stem and finely chop)


2 cups blanched broccoli or cauliflower
Grilled or roasted asparagus
1 apple, cored and diced
1 pear, cored and diced
1 to 2 cups fresh seasonal berries 
1/2 cup dried cherries or cranberries
1/2 cup  toastedchopped walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts
1/2 cup Rogue Creamery Smokey Blue Cheese

1. Combine vinegar, olive oil, honey, mustard or mayonaise, garlic, herbs, salt and pepper  in a small bowl.   Whisk together until well-blended.  

2. Add the avocado and stir very gently until all surfaces are coated.  Blend the avocado and dressing with the greens.

This salad is good on it's own or blend greens with any of the options listed to make it go farther and to add another dimension of flavor.  It looks pretty with blue cheese or pecans sprinkled across the top.

I favor honey from local sources like Tahuya River Aparies.   

I won't be leaving my comfort zone any time soon.
This one definitely passes the sniff test.


Carole said...

So cute and creative. Lovely post

Debra Daniels-Zeller said...

Thanks for visiting Carole; my journey set me up for my new found focus of staying where the salad bowl is filled every day.

Miz Helen said...

I just love the idea of your Perpetual Salad Bowl, I usually have a great salad just waiting for me in the frig. The photo's of Finn warmed my heart today, please give him a special hug from me. It is very lonely here without Jaque. Hope you have a great week end and thank you so much for sharing with Full Plate Thursday.
Come Back Soon!
Miz Helen