Sis and I were texting about the “firehouse salad” Daddy used to make, and just talking about that old familiar rich tang sparked so many memories for me. The local firemen used to have a big fish fry, or a barbecue, or just a big “feed” to raise funds or salute a retirement or for some charity event. And Daddy made the salad for every one of them, for years.
The salad was always composed in little steps. Oil first, to coat all the cut-up iceberg and radishes and onions and bell peppers and tomato and sometimes celery. Daddy flatly refused to let me wash the lettuce for this, saying the oil wouldn’t adhere---I’d peel off four or five leaves, just to kinda get inside where maybe dirt and germs hadn’t got to.
And you know---I’m not making this up, nor am I taking credit for something not mine, but I’m the one who made the first of these salads. Just barely a teen, I was just prinking around in the kitchen, and we had sorta a bland supper going.
I remember putting cut-up tomatoes in the bottom of that old salad bowl and giving them WAY more garlic salt than I should have. Juices all started forming in the bowl, and I glugged in some of the vinegar and a bit of oil and tossed it, then tossed in all the other cut vegetables.
It was mainly because Daddy’s friend Joe was there for supper, and he’d told stories many times, of being a POW in
, and they barely had
anything to eat but dark bread and some kind of broth or beans. They had a guard who would smuggle them in
some salt in his handkerchief, and sometimes a whole head of garlic from
home. They would each take off a little
toe-clove and hide it. Germany
(VERY STRONG VIVID MEMORY HERE):
Mr. Joe would pantomime how he’d eat that precious small bit of flavor, keeping that little toe going for DAYS. He’d pull his lips way back from his front teeth and nibble the air like a tiny mouse, showing how he’d just have a teensy nip of the stuff to satisfy the craving for something bright. (I think I told Sis that I think this would be too strong a visual for putting into the story). I’ll leave that to you.
Anyway, he absolutely LOVED that salad with all the vegetables and sharp vinegary garlicky taste, and after we finished, he took slice after slice of “light bread” and ran it around in the juice and ate it folded over like Daddy liked a Mannaze sandwich with his meals.
They all liked it, and Daddy made it that way as Firehouse Salad all the rest of his life.