First the backstory: I love Italian food and enjoy anything that resembles it.
Olive Garden was my first love. I rarely ate out until I was 24 years old. Definitely nothing beyond the occasional burger or pizza. Then I moved into a beautiful apartment right across from an Olive Garden. The bottomless salads, the breadsticks dipped in Alfredo sauce. I didn’t care what anyone said, Olive Garden was my first Italian love.
But then I moved and this time I was near Macaroni Grill. The fresh bread dipped in olive oil and oh, the freshly ground pepper.
And then I discovered it: The warm spinach salad of my dreams.
It was simple and beautiful; a heap of baby spinach leaves sautéed and smothered with an olive oil and lemon dressing, and slightly crispy, salty garlic cloves sitting humbly atop a little mound of shredded Parmesan cheese.
I fell in love. I enjoyed many delicious moments with the warm spinach salad of my dreams.
And then one day, it was gone.
Without even bothering to check the menu, I had happily asked for the warm spinach salad of my dreams. There was a new spinach salad but it was not the spinach salad I knew. It had scallops and no lemon dressing.
I had the nicest server. I asked what happened to my original love, and he said he didn’t know either but that it was just not there anymore. He said it was very simple to make and the cooks would prepare it just for me. He told me what to ask for next time so they knew which salad I was referring to.
My love had returned to me.
And then, one day it was gone again. The new server said they would no longer make it. I would have to try the new salad.
The new spinach salad was not the same even though I tried it with an open mind. There was less lemon. It had scallops. I like scallops in other dishes, not in the spinach salad of my dreams.
I began to cook spinach salad of my dreams at home. We were reunited and closer than ever.
I already had a big pepper grinder and olive oil. To complete the experience all I needed now was to learn to make the delicious fresh bread, invite some happy noisy friends over and play Italian language lessons in my bathroom.