A Hearty Fall Salad with Sweet Potato, Pecorino, and Toasted Pumpkin Seeds
And it's not made by a robot (even though we love robots).
WE RECENTLY CAUGHT SOCIAL-MEDIA WIND of a magical gourmet-salad vending machine on Capitol Hill that transports salad directly into the mouths of working senators and congressmen, to ensure they’re getting enough delicious and moderately nutritious food to do their jobs well and, hopefully, stop looking so haggard and pasty. On both sides of the aisle.
Or at least that’s how I pictured it in my imagination when I finally heard the buzz.
The machine turns out to be in the basement of one of the senate buildings that the press gallery frequents for sustenance. As a former newspaper reporter, I can tell you that while on the job reporters will eat anything, especially if it’s free and not poison. Also, they will sling the word “gourmet” around promiscuously.
I always say that you can make salad out of anything, but when I saw the photo above, I considered changing my personal credo. After a little more snooping around I found that found the machine is a “smart fridge” from a scrappy young company called Wellfound Foods, whose menus and aspirations are admirable. In addition to salads that stand up to a bit of storage, they sell to-go sandwiches, grain bowls, desserts, snack boxes, and trail mix, too. Good for them!
We’re always late to news like this in the salad lab because we’re so busy making salads with our human hands. For instance, Sally the Salad Making Robot, a quite clever invention, was shut down in July after her parent company (Chowbotics) was bought by DoorDash. Sally, we hardly knew ye.
We find all of this both exciting and sad: Busy people getting stoked about salad, but apparently only if they don’t have to make it themselves. As I’ve said many times before, though, any method that assures people are getting lots and lots of salad in their pie holes is uplifting to the entire universe.
Plus, I’ve learned from readers that even people willing to make salads also want an occasional robot salad, meaning storable and good for toting, the kinds you might buy if you were forced to eat from basement vending machines but still wanted something delicious.
The easiest route is grain, bean, or pasta salads, especially versions with no mayonnaise. (Although I distinctly remember eating plenty of lukewarm tuna salad sandwiches from my lavender Twiggy lunchbox and I’ve lived a nice long life.) These often improve with time in the fridge as well as at room temp for a bit, plus they usually have fewer components prone to wilting. You should stick to these if you’re one of those people who insists on ignoring the physics of soft, fragile lettuce.
Otherwise, all salads are totable if you’re willing to break them down and carry their components separately, the way the vending machines and robots do—a container of crisp leaves sequestered from add-ins, which can then be tossed and dressed at work or when you stop your car to eat or get to your picnic spot.
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