Years ago, actually make that generations ago, the height of culinary showmanship was a tableside tossing of a Caesar salad. While I am a little too young to remember such a ritual, there were wheeled carts in restaurants that provided the foundation to which dutiful waiters would dress and toss your salad as you sat in waiting. Decades on, most salads are prepared in the kitchen and promptly delivered to the table, leaving their creation (I guess) a thing of magic, not empirical study.
I mention this because much of that salad mystery is disappearing (or should I say reappearing?) before our eyes as the chopped salad craze continues to dominate the fast-casual lunch scene. While most people think of the iconic Cobb salad as the pinnacle of chopped salad, no salad…not Greek, not Asian, not even Caesar, is safe from the rough chop of the blade – reducing an array of ingredients into salad confetti. A chopped salad is simply a salad as anyone would order, but made “easy to eat” by being chopped into tiny, little bits that fit comfortably on your fork. This way you get a bite of greens, beans, and cheese with every lift of the fork. No longer will you be subjected to the tyranny of a lone spinach bite, or the frustration of having a kidney bean roll off your fork. Everything is made easier, almost to the point that it looks pre-digested.
The New York Times recently did a trend piece on the proliferation of chopped salad emporiums like Chop’t Creative Salad Company and Just Salad, and how they are doing bonkers business. The appeal of such an operation is that you line up, customize your salad by requesting different toppings from your salad professional, and then, once everything has been selected, you get to watch them pulverize the selection into a pile of shreds. I will not fault anyone for their taste and enthusiasm for such things, but I am not buying it. I don’t feel the need for my salad to be chopped so violently that every bite tastes and functions exactly the same. Salad is about variety, diversity, and a wee bit of struggle – it keeps you on your toes and ideally keeps you a bit healthy.
So what is your read on this trend? Is chopped salad a means toward better eating and better health, as well as being fun, or is it an unnecessary butchering of a good thing?