Those Summer Nights

The food: Summer salads

Brown rice salad

Brown rice salad with salad cream

The heat has landed in Toronto, which makes me want to eat salad for dinner every night.

Summer Salad A in my repertoire has its origins in the summers I spent in England as a young person working on rescue archeology excavations. I gave that personal history to the title character in my latest novel, The Restoration of Emily, and in the novel named two of the actual digs I worked at: a Roman villa near Earith, Cambridgeshire, and a Neolithic hut settlement in North Cave, Yorkshire.

The living conditions were pretty rustic on those digs – we diggers, students mainly, slept in tents onsite and cooked hippieish dinners on Coleman stoves, including a main course salad composed, in my recollection, of cooked brown rice, canned tuna, hard-cooked eggs, cooked corn, a green vegetable or two, and fresh tomatoes. The dressing was Heinz salad cream, a sweet and tangy British kind of runny mayonnaise that can be found in many Toronto supermarkets, a vestige of Canada’s British heritage.

Brown Rice Salad

1 c. brown rice (yields about 3 cups cooked), cooked according to package directions and cooled (can still be warm when mixed and eaten)
8 or 10 strawberry tomatoes, halved
4 hard-cooked eggs, cooled and chopped
1 can flaked white tuna, drained
2 stalks of celery, chopped
corn from 3 cobs of fresh corn, cooked
1 c. crisp-tender steamed fresh green veg of choice, e.g. broccoli, asparagus, green beans
1 yellow, orange or red pepper, chopped, if desired
about 1 c. of Heinz salad cream
salt and pepper
chopped parsley

Mix and eat.

Greek salad with fennel

Greek salad with fennel

Summer Salad B at my house this week was a Greek salad, reminiscent of the summer week I spent on the island of Hydra in 1978, (the year the movie Grease came out), visiting my mother and stepfather in a house they’d rented there for a few months during my stepfather’s sabbatical. We sailed by day, ate in tavernas at night, and danced at the disco.

This time around, I added slices of fresh fennel to the usual ingredients of tomato, cucumber, feta, olives, and peppers (no raw onions, thanks), mixed in some chopped basil and fennel fronds for added colour and flavour, and used a drizzle of lemon oil for dressing, making the salad both virtuous and refreshing, kind of like young Olivia Newton-John in the clip below. Make sure you sing all the parts – hers, John Travolta’s, and those of both choruses, when watching it, for maximum nostalgic and summery effect.

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