I’m the primary caregiver for my partner’s mother. She lives with us and there are a great many rewards, but there are also challenges. As her dementia progresses my caregiving responsibilities naturally increase. Perhaps you’ve noticed that I don’t post as much as I used to and some of my entries are less culinarily enthusiastic than they once were. In fact, I find myself taking all kinds of dinnertime shortcuts that at one time seemed unthinkable to me. Which means semi-creative salads are often the compromise I make to get a meal made. Kale Salad with White Beans and Farro should be a simple dinner. However, in today’s mechanized food world dinner is rarely simple. Even salad.
Box, Bag, or Prep your Own?
That’s a question I ask myself a lot these days. That’s because there are a lot of reasons to hate those pre-washed salad greens that come in a bag. First I can’t get over the feeling that a salad in a bag is the modern version of imagination-free, single-serving TV dinners. I know they’re convenient but the waste created by the excessive packaging is a real problem for me – never mind that these little bags cost just as much as good organic, locally grown lettuce. But, if you’re the kind of person whose good intentions sometimes lead you to buy a whole drawerful of farmers market vegetables and then let them rot simply because you don’t have the time and/or energy to wash, chop, and prep all that good green stuff then I think there’s an argument to be made that more packaging waste is the trade-off for less food waste. Or is it?
Because another unappetizing fact about bagged greens is the disturbing method they use to help those leaves appear so fresh and green. Food that has been “packaged in a protective atmosphere” means that it has been “gassed” with “modified” air to extend its shelf life. So, much like the mummies of ancient Egypt, once that “protection” is compromised by opening the bag the limp leaves inside quickly catch up with their actual age and become nearly inedible within hours. Yuck…
Boxed Kale Salad with White Beans
Still. Here’s a Kale Salad with White Beans and Farro I made with baby kale leaves that come pre-packaged in a plastic clamshell box. I don’t think greens in a box are “gassed” like the bagged versions. The box isn’t airtight. But still, I wonder every time I throw the plastic box in the recycling bin if I’m doing the right thing. The thing is I’ve never seen baby kale leaves sold any other way than pre-packaged. I like all kale but I like baby kale a little better than any other type of kale. So, I tell myself, buying the box means I’ll eat kale more often. Surely that’s a win. Besides baby kale in a box still requires some creativity to make it interesting. Right?
What do you think? GREG
I too often wonder why the vegies and fruits I buy in plastic bags and containers stay fresh for a long time while strawberries from my garden will last about a day. Just like you I still buy them . I love your salad. Being a primaty care taker is hard, take good care of yourself.
You are a good man Greg, it is a lot to ask from anyone. I don’t use the greens in a bag but I do like the baby kale in a box. So much better than large kale. I just bought a box of farro and will definitely be trying your salad.
Baby kale and (often) arugula seem to be most often sold in those plastic boxes. In fact now that you mention it, I can’t recall seeing baby kale sold loose. Well, except sometimes at a farmer’s market. And taking care of an elder is tough — my dad is 97 and up to now has been independent. But it looks like that may be changing, sigh. Anyway, lovely dish — I’m in love with greens at this time of the year. Good stuff — thanks.
Caregiving in the family isn’t something we see much anymore. You and Ken are good to have his mother live with you, and you are a wonderful son-in-law (for lack of better terms] for wanting to care for her. I’m sure it isn’t easy, but I also know you won’t regret it.
I am guilty if the bag and box at times. My preference is the living lettuce in the box…
Lovely (and healthy!) salad.
You’re a good man Greg. Taking care of the elderly is a big job. Thank you. The salad looks wonderful and sometimes we just have to take the shortcuts — no worries.
I take my hat off to you, being a primary care giver is not easy. You must remember to take time for yourself too. These brain disorders are one of the cruelest diseases.
I had no idea that bag salads are gassed. I heard that boxed salads are washed with chemicals to make them stay fresh. There is no winning! I do admit to buying clam shell greens a lot though. This kale recipe looks and sounds wonderful. I’ll get it on the menu this summer for sure.
I can only imagine what you are going through. Manservant’s mother has alzheimer’s and it was a tough battle with his father to finally allow her to go into a small care facility. Unfortunately his father really didn’t have it in him to care for her…especially the patience part. He didn’t want full time care at the house and that’s what she needed, so this was the best solution. My husband sleeps better at night knowing her needs are being met. As for this kale…I prefer baby kale or I really have to chop the heck out of the other. And you know…there’s no easy solution to any of life’s dilemmas.
You’re a saint. Seriously. I could not do what you do. I didn’t know about the gassing — good to know. I love your salad, but I’d have to add an avocado to it. Just for a bit more protein.
Greg, so sorry to hear Ken’s mom’s condition is deteriorating. She’s very fortunate to have such good care. As to the questions you raise about packaging, I have no answers. With some of these things, we simply must choose the lesser of the evils and do what we can.