As a child and onward toward adulthood through the 1980’s, the extent of my salad experience was iceberg lettuce and cherry tomatoes. Iceberg lettuce. Crunchy, cool, mild flavor, if any, and watery. No nutritional value. Iceberg lettuce is to salad aficionados what vanilla is to Ben and Jerry’s. The advent of the 1970’s introduced the salad bar which encouraged the human rabbit to adorn their lackluster greens in a self-service capacity. Eyes and appetites would widen with the promise of unlimited quantities of garbanzos, sprouts, eggs, bacon bits, raisins, peppers, sunflower seeds and perhaps shredded cheese. A dieter resigned to healthier habits could take pride in their wise two-pound composition. They could suspend any thoughts that this wasn’t healthy just before slathering a fat-laden dollop of Bleu cheese, Catalina French, or Thousand Island dressing over the mountain, as it ran down from the summit and blanketed all faces with only croutons scattered and perched randomly like base camps in the snows of Everest. In all honesty, braving the conditions of Mt. Everest would be healthier than consuming these health food impersonators.
Just when it seemed like salads could aspire to no greater heights than the bar, macaroni, or egg, blessed arugula arrived on the scene with the fanfare of the Holy Grail in the 1990’s. This wasn’t like iceberg. And it was not to be confused with Swiss chard or collard greens. No, these were some sort of special, sophisticated, wild greens from Europe. And it was good. Seductive. Dare I say…orgasmic? Can salad be orgasmic? Yes, if it makes you moan.
My palate was uncultured and unprepared for the classical tossed symphony that was about to perform. It’s rich, peppery taste danced on my tongue like a fiery tango, leaving dull memories of iceberg’s hokie pokie moves in the dust. Its tantalizing aroma tickled my nostrils with eye-rolling force. I might have even arched my back. A little. This stranger from overseas, this new and completely original leaf was sexy and intoxicating. I knew I had been taken, converted. I would never go back to iceberg.
Falling in love with Eric was like discovering arugula. Every man, every relationship prior was generic. While they provided the basics and some level of satisfaction, they were common. The relationships were ordinary. I could enhance my perception of what I had with unusual items or exotic dressings as it were. We could take the salad bowl to fun and inspiring, even wicked locations, but after a few bites, the humble iceberg always stared up at me with puppy eyes as if to say “peek-a-boo! It’s still me!” I found myself settling, thinking “I guess it doesn’t get any better than this.”
Eric caught me off guard. His energy, his humor, his smile, his timing – his way – was unlike anyone I had ever encountered. He was raw and organic. Genuine and original. And so undeniably sexy. His soul was hot. He was spiritual but not religious. He was athletic, but not into football or baseball! OMG! Score!
Once I inhaled him, tasted him, experienced him, gave into him – there was no going back.
And he had nutritional value!