A Prologue

Soul Food and Salad BarMy parents and brother had been in New York City for a day before I arrived to meet them for our annual rendezvous in the Big Apple. After a round of hugs and kisses, they, as usual, excitedly recounted the meals they’d eaten so far on their trip. Restaurant lunches and dinners are often the focal points of our family journeys — from the burger joint in northern Wisconsin to the local produce-infused bistro in Western Massachusetts to the wine bar overlooking the countryside of Italy, it’s all about searching for the perfect bite, licking our plates and bowls clean, and reviewing what we ate.

“Last night,” my parents said, “We went to this wonderful restaurant in East Harlem. You would’ve loved it. It was called Manna’s Soul Food and Salad Bar.”

“What did you get?” I asked, imagining fried chicken, collard greens, cornbread, perhaps some macaroni and cheese. I felt a tad envious that I had missed out on the delicious spread, the kind of stuff you can’t find at a restaurant where I now live in Southern Vermont, or even where they live, just north of Chicago.

“Why, salads, of course,” my Mom said, my Dad and brother nodding in agreement. I should have known.

And, this, my friends, is why my Mom is fit to author “Not Just Lettuce,” ultimately to become the World Wide Web’s premier salad blog. For our family, the role of the salad — in its many forms — has evolved from side dish to staple, from afterthought to requirement. That my family can go to a soul food restaurant in Harlem and head directly for the romaine attests to their loyalty to the almighty salad. Enjoy the history, consider the reviews, and feel free to munch while reading.

-Mel