I saw this link in a friend’s feed recently (30-second read, tops—go!) and went on a bit of a tear in the comments. Idiocracy‘s immortal Gentleman’s Latte (a latte and a hand job) was the first thing I thought of, obviously, and since that movie turned out to be a documentary and “hand salad” is the most abjectly moronic non-political phrase I’ve seen in some time—does nobody at the magazine know what “toss your salad” means?—it positively cries out for promotional slogans fit for America 2.0: The Dumbening.
“Salad: It Has What Hands Crave.” (Seriously, if you haven’t seen Idiocracy yet, why are you still here instead of streaming that shit right now?)
“Every hand salad deserves a happy ending.”
“You’re soaking in it!”
“Feeling handsy, fellas? Grab ‘er by the parsley!”
“Is that a salad in your hands, or are you just glad to see me?”
“That’s not yogurt, by the way.” #HandSalad
I started saying “hand salad” to myself in the singsongy way that “hot pocket” acts as a refrain in Jim Gaffigan’s master class on strip-mining a dismal foodstuff for comedy gold. Whoever coined “hand salad” should be punished, on video, with a hand pie to the face. Hand pies, another too-twee-by-half Internet food fetish, change the presentation without improving the food in any meaningful way, unless of course using a fork to feed yourself dessert is a heavy lift. Hand pies: much more work to make, but slightly easier to eat than regular pies!
While a hand pie is just a Pop-Tart that married a dentist, moved to a gated community, and always acts way too excited to see you when she bumps into you at Whole Foods even though you both know she’ll never invite you over because you work for a living, a hand salad is the graspingly twee makeover of a sad bachelor’s wedge salad: half a head of wilting iceberg with ranch dressing poured over it and eaten standing over the sink to avoid having to wash any dishes. (The sad bachelor would invite you over, but you would probably never go.)
Hand salad is too-cute, lazy, and bizarrely infantilizing (akin to the the nom-nom baby talk plague that made me stop reading most food blogs forever) all while doing nothing whatsoever to improve the flavor of dressed lettuce. If the no plates(!) concept gets you excited all by itself, remember that in the photo there’s a bowl for the lettuce and a bowl for the dressing, and, because food stylists all have prop Tourette’s, another goddamn plate for the inexplicably dipped-in-yogurt-but-then-not-eaten piece of lettuce so you’re going to want to go ahead and have some of those handy for guests who balk at the crucial post-dipping step of feeding themselves. Get it? Handy?
Seriously, why not just make a romaine-yogurt smoothie and call it a Cup Salad? Or toss your leaves and dressing together per the tired old method but then change it up by partying down with some Face Salad, where you just jam your head into the bowl and wolf until it’s gone like you’re at a pie-eating contest, but for salad? You could even macramé yourself some fetching Salad Cuffs™ to keep your hands behind your back so you wouldn’t be tempted to cheat by using your hands—because that would make it hand salad, silly!—though you might want to have a spotter and a safe word in case you aspirate a crouton or something.
Also, what’s with the yogurt dressing? Sure, yogurt with garlic and lemon is fine, but the thought of daintily dipping lettuce into it kind of makes me want to drown whoever wrote this in a toilet full of thousand island. As I parse it, there are two motivations behind something as forced as this (beyond the constant, desperate shoveling of clickbait into the void). First, it’s a flailing attempt to make diet food more interesting, which approaches the existential horror of women laughing alone with salad. If that’s the case, then maybe grill the lettuce head first, or really try to make a more interesting dressing for it, or suggest banging the pool boy before lunch so you can burn enough calories to justify a nice sandwich.
The second possible goal I can see seems to be more of a “make greens fun to eat” angle. Our hand model may or may not be laughing, but she might be married. If you actually want to sell this idea to the sort of people who need a recipe to mix yogurt, garlic, and lemon together in another vain attempt to get the oafs they married to eat a fucking vegetable, at least throw some fish sauce and chilies and shit in there and make it interesting. You know, like create a recipe for something exceptionally pleasurable to eat. That way, after they make this, if they’re very very lucky, one day their husbands might use romaine lettuce to eat mayonnaise out of the jar when nobody else is home and they’re out of pretzels.
Also, what the FUCK is the blue thing in the top center of the photo? A water bottle? A prosthetic limb? An alien bursting out of her chest? The other blue plaid thing is her leg, clearly, but I can’t stop looking at the UFO or whatever it is and it makes me angrier than the plate for the dipped-in-yogurt-and-yet-uneaten piece of separated and washed and trimmed and arranged in a bowl romaine lettuce leaves. Who takes a picture for Bon Appétit with some strange blue robot appendage photobombing the precious hand salad and says: “This, THIS is the shot that conveys the essence of hand salad to the masses clamoring for a new way to put lettuce into their mouths!”?
I think this lazy, half-assed non-innovation is actually more obnoxious than the overly complicated “Use hot glue, pinecones, and glitter to make a centerpiece that might just hold your marriage together through one more Thanksgiving” aspirational make-work lifestyle porn that so many outlets peddle. Those projects have the potential to build skills and maybe become a fun family activity, at least until your husband comes home drunk again. Hand salad is just saying “Fuck it—some assembly required” to your guests as you place a bowl of lettuce before them. It’s the culinary equivalent of the track suit and fanny pack ensemble: a way of telling the world that you’ve given up without having to say it out loud. Which is why it’s so much more appropriate for our time, and therefore so much worse.
And, lest you think I’m too smug and superior and judgmental, remember that I just wrote eleven hundred words about a dumb thing for free. Who’s the moron now?