While I have a week off from teaching (mid-winter recess), I thought I would clear the air around here a little.

Every few weeks I check my blog stats. I look to see how people are finding this blog, where they are coming from, and the internet searches that have brought them to this site. (And yes, I’m looking to see just how many people, in theory, are coming here.) There is one search that I can no longer hide. Above is a picture of actual search terms that have found my site. I have laughed it aside in disbelief one too many times so please humor me as I answer the query that finds this site too often:

“Am I allergic to salad?”

The short response for those of you seriously finding your way here because of the above search: NO.

But really: “Can I be allergic to salad?”

NO. (But keep reading. Maybe we’ll find what it is you are really allergic to.)

First, I apologize if you are reading this and you are one of those searching for answers. Every time I see that phrase I bang my head four times on the table with a “W-T-F-!?” No, you cannot be “allergic to salad” simply because salad is not a single food. When I say that, I mean “salad” is not apple, nor peanut, nor milk. It is not strawberry. Nor is it even the broadest category food allergen I can think of at the moment: shellfish.

But wait! “I feel sick when I see salad.” (Another search that found me.)

So do my students! It’s how this blog found it’s name (see here). Their vocal happiness falls an octave when they see green leaf-like objects on a platter, “[Moaaaaaaaan] Salad? I’m alllllergic.” That is not an allergy. That is a bad food memory.

The word “salad” is a placeholder for the name of a dish. A very poor one at that. Why? Because a salad can be just about anything– almost any combination of foods– hot or cold, vegetable, fruit, meat or fish, grain or legume. Think about it: There is green salad, shrimp salad, potato salad, bean salad, pasta salad, fruit salad, tabouleh salad, etc. Salads can be eaten as an appetizer (think caesar salad), a side dish (think coleslaw), a main (think chicken salad). The French eat salads at the end of the meal– crazy, right? As a means to cleanse their palate. And wait for it… Wait… You can have salad as a dessert! Sacrilegious! (Think fruit salad, maybe with a touch of whipped cream.)

“Wait, you insensitive twat!” You say, “I really am allergic.”

No, you’re really not. Not unless someone foraged you a salad of poison ivy and bumble bee stings. What you can be is allergic to any one (or more) of the ingredients mentioned above, or others not mentioned that found their way into your salad. More likely, you’re allergic to an ingredient in the dressing you are using– or an ingredient in the factory-processed bacon-bits, croutons, fried wonton thingies or whatever it is you are sprinkling on top of that salad. There might be MSG in there (often listed as ‘Natural Flavor’ on an ingredient list even when the food label says “No MSG added”). Many people have adverse reactions to MSG (ie allergic). You might be allergic to soy. Did you know soy is one of the top allergens and in almost every food product that comes wrapped in a package, box or shaker (ie almost anything bought wrapped from a grocery). Some form of soy product is likely in the dressing or item you’re sprinkling on top.  I’m talking from chocolate to salad dressing to vegetable oil to edamame (that’s a soybean) to caramel color to cheese to fast food hamburger meat. Soy is everywhere.

I am sorry if you swore off salads and might have to rethink what you actually swore off.

“So why is your blog ‘Allergic to Salad’? I thought you were allergic.”

No, I’m not allergic. I’m playing off my students (and a wider audience perspective) that salads are so “gross” an allergy is better than a relationship. The myopic view of what a salad is. That there are dishes other than “salad” that taste delicious and are good for you. I am fighting to reclaim that horrible placeholder for many delicious dishes with an unfortunate name. To orient our thinking away from “salad” the word to good, wholesome food.

“Ugh,” you say and cross your arms, “I’m still allergic to salad.”
“Fine,” as I tell my students when they say the same: looks like you’ll be sitting out when we make chocolate salad.

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