The lazy man food that is a cold salad of some sort has traveled with me through life from the potluck culture of America (and especially my university, The Evergreen State College). I cannot count how many of these salads I made during those few years – you would think that I would never do it again, considering how often it was required of me in those years. I have one particular memory of having made both of the salads I made tonight (tomato green bean and mozzarella and the sesame noodle with prawns, as shown below). I was taking a “field trip” to Victoria, British Columbia with a couple of classmates and our Russian teacher (who was in the US for a year or half a year or something). Our class consisted of three other students and me – and one of those students, a Polish woman, could not attend. Thus, I did all this cooking, all the driving and off the four of us went. I got the worst, most brutal sunburn of my life on that excursion – on the ferry from Port Angeles, Washington to Victoria on a deceptively overcast day. I also realized the perilous depths of my propensity for seasickness. The one guy in my class, a nice guy apart from his hopeless, shameless and relentless flirtation (presumably one factor that may have led to the demise of his marriage), talked me through the seasickness very sweetly, talking, telling me stories, trying to distract me by singing Marlene Dietrich’s “Lili Marlene”. “Crush” is not something compatible with my aloof, indifferent personality and often laissez-faire attitude toward pretty much everything. But he is one of the few people who caused me to feel the real ache of crushing on someone who is completely out of reach.
It was on the trip home from what was a beautiful day in Victoria that we stopped to have a picnic of sorts and ate these lazy salads. We contentedly sang together the rest of the way back to Olympia. We started off with songs we all knew (the Russian songs we were learning in class, for example) and moved on to the entire Cowboy Junkies’ catalog (although by the end of that I was the only one singing since no one else knew the songs).
Usually songs capture moments and events in a way that vividly awaken a hear-taste-touch-smell-feel sensory overload that cannot be replicated in any other way, as though you have been transplanted back into that moment. In this case, though, it is a noodle salad taking me back. I briefly relive the beauty and ache of that day – and then my memory shuffles through a few other memories of that year, those characters, the prickly, painful moments that shine a bright light on my awkwardness during that period. I cannot call it anything other than “trying too hard”. I tried so hard to be likeable that I am fairly sure I wasn’t. I kept giving and volunteering and twisting myself into someone I wasn’t and someone I did not even like. I remember spending a lot of money buying gifts for these people (the Russian class, among others), somehow imagining that that would make me more endearing, memorable? It didn’t, of course. I actually lost touch with all these people within a year of the course ending. The other girl in the course, with whom I thought I was close friends, was apparently bullied by her boyfriend not to be friends with me (or anyone who might encourage her to think for herself). The instructor went back to Russia. The flirtatious guy went on with his studies, I suppose, got divorced (maybe remarried and divorced after?) – but I did not really keep up. (We briefly connected on Facebook before he disappeared from there.)
Reflecting on this – thanks to my noodle salad – it’s interesting to compare how people so often meet their life partners in college. I cannot even begin to imagine. (Scarier still that people who meet in high school manage to pair off. To each his/her own. I get it but at the same time don’t get it.)
Interested in making your own salad – whether or not it ends up being inextricably linked to stirring and sharp memories, made while eating it – follow the recipe below.
Sesame noodle salad with prawns
A large package of Asian egg noodles or four packages of instant ramen noodles
One packet of seasoning from a ramen packet
1/3 cup rice vinegar
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 clove of minced garlic
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
Cooked prawns (as many as desired)
Chopped green onions
Mix all ingredients together (other than noodles, prawns and green onions). Cook the noodles according to instructions (or very slightly undercook them, as they will soak up more of the dressing). Cool the noodles, rinsing under cold water. Drain well. Mix the dressing into the noodle and refrigerate for a few hours. Cook the prawns, chop the green onion, toss into the noodle mix. Refrigerate overnight if desired as it helps flavors develop. Or eat immediately.