April 8, 2009

Shag Carpet Salad

I was born in 1980. This was the year when everyone in the world breathed a sigh of relief and asked, with voices emitting shoulder-padded strength and precision, "What the hell just happened?"

Well, I'll tell you what just happened--the 1970s had just happened. Out of the daze & haze we marched forward into a new decade, struggling to put together the pieces of our civilized selves. This process of "re-civilizing" involved toting around leather briefcases, tucking our jeans delicately into our socks, and ironing.

When the clocks struck midnight on January 1, 1980, everyone suddenly became aware that their walls were painted pea-green and orange, colors they didn't really like at all. They looked at themselves in the mirror and tried hard to remember where the uneven rainbow tattoo on their foreheads had come from. And why did that rainbow consist of only two colors: pea-green and orange? And why was it resting on a deflated lavender cloud?

As if in unison, people all across this great nation began to cringe upon noticing the freaky knick-knacks scattered about their living rooms:

Crocheted clowns?

Pancreatic ashtrays?

Owls floating on magic sticks?

How had American human beings allowed things to get this bad--and this trippy?

In the wake of that strange decade, we were left with something else--something one can only describe as part-jungle/part-freaky. That something was shag carpet, and my childhood home was full of it!

Our shag carpet was a thing of nightmares: mom's high heels would get stuck in it; my toys would get lost in it; stains would never come out of it; dad's spare change was always sucked into it. Many earrings, paperclips, and Barbie shoes fell into the carpet and never returned. If an item dropped from a table to the floor, you might as well consider it lost for good. Little could survive in a field of shag--except more shag.

Like a drunk uncle at an Amish wedding, our shag carpet seemed to suffocate the sober life around it to fuel its own clumsy and tangled ways. Sometimes it felt like our shag was reproducing right before our eyes! It grew up the walls and up the tables and up the legs of my parents. It grew and pulsated and expanded, stretching out the door and into the yard. It sprawled into the cornfield and under the bridges and over the Quaker meeting houses. Last I heard our shag was crossing county lines!

Just as you can't avoid the drunk uncle at a proper Amish wedding, our shag was, likewise, inescapable. Try ignoring it all you want--that's not going to stop it from throwing baby carrots at the groom while incomprehensibly slurring, "Amish, Schmamish! Where's the ranch dressing? And, where am I?"

Our house had two shades of shag: vomit-green and vomit-orange. (What a surprise, eh? It complimented our mustard-yellow & goldleaf wallpaper just beautifully!) When I think back on my childhood, these two shaggy colors come to mind first before any other colors. My memories of childhood seem to crop forth from these vomit-hued fields. And, you know what? Now that I've put about 20 years between myself and that carpet, I find I kind of love it--sort of like a button learns to love the ugly sweater onto which it was sewn. As ratty and nasty as that carpet was, it was also soft and forgiving; even if it did catch hold of your stiletto and toss you bum-first to the floor, at least it gave you a nappy nest upon which to land.

I aptly named the salad below "Shag Carpet Salad" due to its vomit-green and vomit-orange color palette. (Appetizing, eh?)

I wasn't quite sure what to make of this salad at first. Is it delicious? Yes. Does it include some of my favorite vegetables? Mos' def'. Is it pretty enough for a blog? Probably not. But, if there's one thing I've learned from my shag carpet experience, it's that even the ugly and painful things can become pretty when channeled through the processes of memory. And will. A very, very strong will. Even the drunk uncle at an Amish wedding can be pretty in his own goofy and stuttering way. And the baby carrots he's slinging? Absolutely gorgeous!

Shag Carpet Salad
(serves 2-4)

1 large sweet potato, chopped into 1/2-inch cubes
10-12 Brussels sprouts, halved
3 tbs. olive oil
1 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
4-6 cauliflower florets, chopped
juice from half an orange
2-3 tbs. sunflower seeds
salt and pepper to taste

Roasting Your Veggies

1. Toss your cubed sweet potatoes and halved Brussels sprouts into a bowl. Throw in the olive oil, cumin, salt, and pepper, and stir until the potatoes and sprouts are coated. Pour the veggies onto a cookie sheet or large casserole dish, and spread them all out to ensure they roast evenly. Bake for 25-30 minutes at 400. You will probably want to flip the veggies once in the middle of roasting.

Preparing Salad

1. Once your sweet potatoes and sprouts have cooled a bit, chop the Brussels halves in half. Spoon these roasted veggies into a large bowl, and then toss in your chopped cauliflower and sunflower seeds. Finally, you can squeeze the juice of 1/2 an orange into the bowl. Stir until combined. Add salt and pepper to taste.

This salad tastes complex and delicious right away, but it's even better after chilling in the fridge overnight. Enjoy these beautiful shag carpet vittles!


Jess said...

Jada, you are fantastic, lady. Really.

Breedale said...

The salad sounds wonderful and I love the imagery of the shag carpet. Very aptly described!

Hadley Gets Crafty said...

Your salad sounds wonderful. I must admit, though, I once ripped out an old shag carpet. The experience was so disgusting that I can't quite comfortably connect such a thing with delectables. Oh, the years of dust and pet pee trapped in that stuff!

That is not to say that I didn't enjoy the post very much; just that I'll call it "Super Magic Owl Stick" salad, or something. ;)

Dia said...

The salad sounds great! & I loved your 'shag carpet' memoir!!

When we moved into our *OWN HOUSE* in 1882, the kitchen had avocodo green appliances, the kooky 'kitchen stuff' wallpaper (pepper grinders etc) in gold & green, . . .
My pre teen daughter & I went over to a new school friend's home, with a BIGGER version of our wallpaper (did I mention I was a 'blue & white' gal all thru the 79s, & hadn't had THOSE COLOURS before??) . . .
We walked in the kitchen, & the girl 'inocently' asked me if I liked her mom's wallpaper - while stumbling for words (these were new friends - I wasn't sure, . . .) the mom turned from the sink & said "I HATE that wallpaper!" Instant friends.
I'm a great fan of coconut oil for cooking these days - just made some fresh nettle pesto with both olive & coconut oils - yum!

Estelle said...

i once sucked off a shag carpet... or ate it out, im not sure thw actual technical description.

i was illictily raiding my grandfather`s bar which was in the untouched 70s mortuary that was my grandmother`s "good room."

it involved diving my face into a frenzy of sucking in the fibres in an act shameful to recall. i was panicked, attempting to remove a splash of creme de menthe i had accidently tipped into the ragged knots.

no stains remained but like all abuse the scars are hidden, emotional ones. i could never look at the rug again.

Fannie said...

Hey the salad looks wonderful and I love the imagery of the shag carpet. Very aptly described! thanks for sharing this blog!!!

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