Cut Lettuce BEFORE Chewing...
My idea of a salad is more toward the ecumenical persuasion. Load it up, baby. Throw it all in there! The more diverse the vegetative congregation, the more intriguing the forkful. (Author's Note: I do not, however, hold this view when it comes to actual church congregations...that just puts too many cats in one bag...and all that clawing and howling makes it hard to hear the message...)
I am also, along with Ralph Nader, an advocate for a standardized edible sizing of each ingredient to ensure the health and enjoyment of the dining experience. Please let me elaborate...
Parents or aunts or uncles or fellow diners have seen what happens when you give toddlers syrup-soaked pancakes roughly the size of their heads. With a happy grin, the little nibbler waits until everyone is talking. Then it makes a two-handed grab for the hubcapped-sized foodstuff, enthusiastically jamming the entire sticky, dripping disc into its mouth. A mouth only big enough for one teaspoon-sized morsel. The rest becomes a body suit courtesy of Aunt Jemima and Mrs. Butterworth.
Yeah...it's a mess.
I used to have the same infantile dilemma back in the day when I went out to eat with The Wife and our two kids, The DAGU (Daughter All Grown Up), and TechnoBoy. The Wife would be furiously cutting up food into heimlich-proof portions for the kids.
And she would forget about me.
There is one more piece of context needed to understand why things would happen like they did when we went out to eat.
Life in a small town has one rule - wherever we go, we meet people we know. And it's small-town etiquette to at least say "Hi" even if it makes you wanna spit. Be polite. Be a fake, if necessary. A polite fake is the social superior to one who is a horse's patoot, It is an unwritten predilection within almost all of our small population...except for the patoots, of course...and all four of them are jerks.
This is the reason for the following reaction. As folks walk past or are seated nearby, I nod and say "Hi", a subtextual message that I am not one of the four patoots. The problem? I do this while eating my salad. And what happens next has, unfortunately, always gone something like this...
I harpoon the salad. Just as the fork starts to rise, I hear a salutation.
"Hi. How are you?"
I turn, taking my eyes off the fork, not knowing that I am now lifting a half-acre of produce, all balanced precariously on a piece of lettuce the size of a dinner plate.
"Fine, fine. How goes it by you?"
The fork is now up and moving towards my face as gravity gently beckons to the ingredients. A radish slice succumbs, falling to the table, taking a crouton with it.
Eyes still on the conversation, my mouth starts to open slightly as I begin to turn my head. I hear The Wife's sharp intake of breath. My eyes slide to the side in time to see it all happen.
The ensuing adrenaline rush makes it all in slooooow mooootiooooonnnnn..
The fork is well-centered for an easy docking procedure but the lettuce is a good two inches on either side of the docking bay. I panic. What to do? Momentum and a poor decision drives the mini-planetarium into my face. The outstretched lettuce violently compresses in, its leaves acting like organic catapults, shooting finely grated carrots and purple onion strands into the air and...oh...is that a black olive? Nuts. I like those.
I lock eyes with The Wife. I see them getting bigger through the airborne haze of chopped and minced vegetation. Off to the side I see the widening eyes and grins of the two children, thoroughly enjoying Dad's catastrophe.
Passing the point of no return, I push the wad of salad further into my mouth, clamping down in hopes of stopping the dispersion completely...which would usually work unless something bounces off that little thing that hangs down in the back of the throat and disappears down a pipe.
And, yeah...it's the wrong pipe.
The involuntary cough rockets the lettuce and its posse back out into the atmosphere, executing an elegant half-somersault, reminiscent of the caped man shot from a circus cannon. And like the caped daredevil, the salad glob lands perfectly in the "safety net" aka the "bread and roll basket" in the middle of the table. A roar of delighted squeals and applause rise from our crowd of two children. The Wife is speechless. I continue to cough up grated carrots.
So that, dear reader, is why I cut the lettuce into small, bite-size pieces when filling the Tupperware bowl. And it's why I order soup instead of salad when dining at places where we might know someone.
It's a rule The Wife has.