Before writing to you this week, I took a moment to revisit what I wrote for Father’s Day last year. One thing I realized is that as the years pass, I find my dad’s teachings more valuable. Discovering deeper meaning and life lessons in a simple salad recipe brings me pure joy. In this week’s Father’s Day edition, I will share his delicious salad recipe and the life lessons incorporated into its list of ingredients.
My dad was 24 years old when his father passed away suddenly, and as the eldest son, he immediately took on the responsibility of providing for a family of 7. This meant working three jobs, limited financial resources, and no time to cook anything extravagant. Compared to meat, vegetables were more affordable, making salad a nutritious and quick weekend treat for the family. Dad became skilled at chopping vegetables quickly, and since it required no cooking time, it was a fast way to feed many mouths before starting his weekend shift at the printing house where he worked. Over time, he perfected his shepherd salad recipe, which is possibly why my uncles and I still love it to this day.
Seedless English cucumbers
Salt & pepper
Step 1: Wash and dry the vegetables. As you can see, there are no specific measurements or quantities listed next to the ingredients. Start with a couple of tomatoes and half a cucumber to ensure you don’t make too much, as leftover salad isn’t appealing.
Lesson 1: Don’t expect a desirable outcome without adjusting and adapting along the way. Follow a recipe, but never let it limit your creativity. Dad always achieved the perfect balance even when the lemons weren’t as juicy or there weren’t enough cucumbers. The end result mattered the most, not rigidly following the recipe. Being flexible and open to adjustments has proven to be a valuable lesson in various aspects of my life. Dad enjoyed experimenting and finding creative ways to enhance something each time.
Step 2: Set up your salad station. Gather a sharp knife, a suitable chopping board, and all the ingredients.
Lesson 2: Regardless of how small or mundane the task may seem, stay focused, prepare adequately, and be fully present. Dad wouldn’t talk or engage much when he was making a salad or anything else. He prepared everything meticulously and once he began, he devoted his attention to the task at hand. This ensured that you always received his very best.
Step 3: Dice the cucumbers and tomatoes into approximately 1/2″ squares. Dice the onion into pieces about 1/4″ in size. Chop the parsley and mint to a length of 1/2″.
Lesson 3: Infuse love and care into your actions. Pay attention to detail and respect others. Dad was always meticulous. It wasn’t just about dicing the vegetables; they had to be cut to a uniform size. No matter the task, dad always cared about his creation. When you ate his salad, you could feel the love and respect simply by looking at the plate in front of you.
Step 4: Combine the tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, and parsley in a bowl. Gently mix while adding olive oil, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, sumac, salt, and pepper. Begin with smaller amounts and adjust the flavors as you go (see lesson 1 above). Garnish with freshly chopped mint before serving.
Lesson 4: Ensure that your creation excites you and fills you with pride before serving it to others. Additionally, never forget that presentation is just as important as everything else. As dad neared completion of his salad, his face would light up. He would express excitement after each taste test. The mint was always placed with intention, giving the salad a touch of exclusivity. Dad valued himself and those he served by maintaining high standards for his creations.
Who would have thought I could learn so much from a simple salad recipe? I often wonder what other hidden nuggets of wisdom have gone unnoticed and under-appreciated, shaping me into the person I am today. While there are many aspects of my childhood that could bring unhappiness, lately, I choose to relish in discovering these golden nuggets. Celebrating our similarities rather than our differences has proven to be an essential ingredient in making my shepherd salads even more delicious and filling my life with joy and happiness.
– Burak Sarac, Team Lead
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