I brought a salad to the office on Friday, which is not unusual. But I was in a rush in the morning and didn’t prepare the little container with the dressing (olive oil, vinegar, salt).
As I started cycling towards the office, I expected / hoped / vaguely remembered that the office kitchen had some bottles of these.
Imagine my sheer horror when, hours later, I turn up at the kitchen and… nope. There was nothing of that. There was sugar, marmite, sriracha (hot sauce), salt, pepper, other random things… but absolutely no olive oil or vinegar.
Was I confused with the memory of what we used to have access to in my former employer’s kitchen? Or had things been taken away during the long dark autumn, winter, spring and summer of the coronavirus and they had not been restocked yet in this kitchen?
Whatever the truth was, I was actually NOT interested in finding out, because I was HUNGRY and I wanted to eat my salad, but I was also paralysed by the thought of having it neat and undressed. Other than some cumin seeds, I had not added any dressing or spices in the morning, so that the vegetables wouldn’t get all mushy in the meantime.
I scoured all the cupboards in the kitchen upstairs, and I did the same but for the cupboards in the kitchen downstairs. I encountered box after box of cereals, some bread slices, lots of water pumps and purifiers and other kitchen machinery, ground coffee, and giant (and I mean giant) bags of PG Tips but… no oil of any kind.
I was starting to consider two options: either going to the supermarket to buy a bottle of olive oil and vinegar (but then I wasn’t sure if they would fit in my locker, and didn’t know if that would be a hygienic thing to do; maybe it would be best if I donated the oil to the office?), or to put back my salad in my backpack, and go and get lunch from somewhere.
Both were akin to ADMITTING DEFEAT.
But it was Friday! I wanted to finish the week on a high note. I was determined to WIN.
THINK, BRAIN, THINK!
What do I want in a salad dressing? What is it meant to bring to the salad?
- In a way it is like the One ring: it’s meant to bind the ingredients together – so it has to come in some sort of liquid shape that can squeeze between gaps. Thus, margarine or marmite won’t do.
- It provides fat to the salad, which without it is just carbs and protein. Thus, hot sauce or plain water won’t do.
- It could also carry some flavour or seasoning such as salt and pepper. Thus, just salt and pepper won’t do.
After this brief pause, I realised that I had not looked in the fridges, because you don’t put oil or vinegar in the fridge (unless you’re evil, like the cleaners for my former employer were—cue images of cloudy olive oil bottles).
“Would it be worth looking in the fridges?”, I wondered. I had exhausted the other options, so why not…?
A H A!
Turns out that the solution was there!
In between various vegetable mylks and juice cartons, low fat yoghurt and 100% protein skyr (so no fat either) pots… there was a pot of FULL FAT YOGHURT! A solution was in sight!
So this was my hack: a few spoonfuls of full fat yoghurt in a cup, with some water to dilute and make it more liquid, then some salt and pepper.
I also found a jar of oregano so I added a bit of it for some herbiness (good olive oil has a bit of this too).
I stirred everything together and poured it over my salad.
I felt smug and proud of myself, like MacGyver in a hypothetical episode where he has to improvise a meal in an under equipped kitchen with just a few wires, a blunt knife and a box of random ingredients.
My colleagues were coming back from their walk to the street market, burritos in hand. The last time they saw me, I was standing in the kitchen, paralysed and confused. My stance was now wholly different: I declared to my colleagues that I had devised a hack and MY HACK WORKED!
It was Friday, and I had WON 🏆
And then I sat to quietly eat my salad with my colleagues.