I’m always disappointed with salad dressing. It’s either too thin or too thick. Some are too vinegary, some are too oily. I must have 25 opened bottles in the fridge. And another 20 unopened in the pantry. In restaurants, I always ask for the dressing on the side, and I request two or three different kinds. Maybe if I combine the lite honey mustard with the raspberry vinaigrette? How about half French and half Thousand Island? Yuck. Nothing works.
My sister, Linda, who lives in New York, is an awesome cook. Whenever we visit and she prepares a meal, the salad is tossed with the most delicious dressing imaginable. And maybe it’s my imagination, but for 35 years she has avoided telling me how she makes it. I’ll say during dinner, “Linda, you really have to give me the recipe …”
“Sure, remind me before you leave,” Linda says.
Then, as we are leaving, she often conveniently brings up things like pressing health issues in the family, stuff I really don’t want to talk about. The whole thing is very suspicious. Maybe the recipe is a family secret. Wait a second: It’s my family, too.
Recently my wife asked me for the 1,000th time, “Aren’t you going to eat your salad?” That was it. I called my sister and told her I wanted to know what was in her special creation and I wanted to know NOW.
“Look, Dick. The reason I never gave you the recipe is that I really have no idea what the exact proportion of ingredients is.”
“How could that be, Linda? It has tasted exactly the same every year since 1976 when I first tasted it at your wedding reception.”
“I know. It really keeps. I probably made way too much.”
“Seriously, Linda, nothing lasts 35 years.”
“It actually lasted 25.”
“I’m not talking about your marriage. I’m talking about the salad dressing.”
I pressed her again for details. Finally, after further cajoling, I received this email:
LINDA’S SALAD DRESSING
2 T sugar (NOT artificial sweetener)
2 T ketchup (NOT chili sauce)
1 T Durkee Famous Sauce (Do NOT substitute)
3 T apple cider vinegar (NOT red wine vinegar)
1/2 cup of vegetable or canola oil (NOT olive oil)
Put in blender (Do NOT whisk)
Well, first of all, this was the most hostile recipe I had ever seen, and I think an entire cookbook like this would be very intimidating for people who wanted to just have some creative fun in the kitchen. I prepared the dressing exactly as Linda instructed, and I even called her to be sure I had the blender on the right speed. All Linda said was, “NOT puree.” By the way, growing up, she had a very positive attitude.
I am very proud of my finished product. I have drizzled it on my salad every night for the past week. I decided to ask Linda for the recipe for her fabulous Chicken Marsala. She told me she really didn’t have the specifics for that one, either, but she said that when Mary Ellen and I come to New York next month, she’ll serve it to us. I said “No thanks.” I seem to remember that’s also what we had at her wedding.
Dick Wolfsie has been a reporter for WISH-TV in Indianapolis the past 30 years. His columns appear in 30 Indiana newspapers and on public radio stations across the state. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.