Condiment-Fu: 3 Techniques for Salad Bars

This past weekend I made the short but scenic schlep to Horrorfind, where my liver met it’s Waterloo. Somewhere between the acrobatics of physically dodging ex-boyfriends (it was a frickin’ hive of them), attending the super exclusive screening of my buddy Seaver’s latest flick: “Moist Fury”, and  the dream-squashing realization that a crush doesn’t fancy the ladies (dammit!), I ended up at a steak joint with some friends. The place had a salad/bread/soup bar, and that’s the only way I can make sense of the purseload of apple butter and mayo packets I woke up with.

How did this bounty come to be? Did the condiment fairy take pity on my cause and turn my bag into a veritable cornucopia? Nay! ‘Twas my own sticky paws that pilfered yon apple butters so deftly! After much hung over facepalming and pondering, the details of my score emerged from the haze. In my former life as a teenage kleptomaniac, I probably would have pinched the bowl they were in as well… but nowadays I’m big on the “take only what you need”. I needed two fistfuls of apple butter packets.

So here they are; three ways to dodge shame and questions while liberating dine-in salad bar condiments.

  1. The Elephant Man Channel your inner petty thief and employ this classic approach which is usually reserved for jewelry and candy bars. While roaming around the salad bar, grab a handful of packets and motion them onto your plate. Instead of plating them, nudge ’em up your sleeve and go for a few more if you’re feeling ballsy. Make your way back to the table and deposit your plate, then excuse yourself to the restroom and shake your stash out (like an elephant’s trunk) for easy pursing or pocketing.
  2. The Eager Beaver My personal favorite. Act like you’re starving and zip around the salad bar, zeroing in on foods next to condiments. Crackers are usually near salad dressing or soup, butters/spreads near breads, etc. Be sure to get to the table before any of your dining companions so that nobody will see you pursing them. Don’t have a purse? Try a ziploc bag in your laptop case or a female friend who is sympathetic to the cause.  Optional step for the slow or squeamish: load up your plate and put something lame like a small pile of salad over part of your haul and grab a few more condiments to carry back to the table in your hand.
  3. The Wiley Squirrel Two words: bury it. Though much like the optional step in the Eager Beaver, this move’s success relies primarily on your agility and ability to camouflage things on your plate. Instead of a small patch of salad, look for large, sprawling foods that will settle nicely around the condiment packets without obvious adjustment. For example  eggs, pancakes, large-leaf salads, and piles of small vegetables like cherry tomatoes or baby carrots. Be sure to give yourself enough time at the table to dig out the booty before your friends arrive.

If you’re slow or a beginner, I suggest #1. For the advanced and/or shameless, #2. For the thrill seeker, #3.

The truth of the matter is that nobody looks at what others are doing at salad bars. Everyone is too busy either trying to avoid seeming gluttonous, looking for something that looks edible/sanitary, or stifling their hunger and impatience in the name of civility. Go nuts. Really.

If you’re quick enough, you can even plunder the jelly rack or sugar caddy at the table as well. Remember… 48 packets of sugar to a cup. You’d best get to work.

Oh… and leave a nice tip. Dealing with the aftermath of your “frugality” isn’t what your server wanted to do when they grew up. Don’t be a dick and toss them an extra buck or two.