Dole Salad Summit, Part 2
The first day and a half of the Dole Salad Summit was defined by food and friends. But, by midafternoon on Thursday morning, we were encouraged to strap on our running shoes and hairnets and really dig in to some hard core work.
(Dana models our field gear)
We were invited onsite a Dole farm, where iceberg lettuce was being harvested. Before going near the field, we had to suit up with heavy-duty gloves and hairnets, an important aspect of keeping the produce in the field safe. You’ll see why such precaution is important in about three seconds here.
When we arrived, several workers were out in the fields, ready to pick. The Dole execs told us later that evening that the families of the workers were so excited that a group of bloggers would be coming to watch them at work, many of them had asked if they could come and take pictures of us taking pictures of their loved ones. There’s a bittersweet taste to that story in my mind. First, I was so moved by the pride many of these workers take in their jobs. Dole likewise prides themselves in taking care of their employees, many of whom have worked for the company for 5, 10, 20+ years.
But, there was sadness laced around the story, too. There are men and women out everyday, harvesting the food I eat, the produce I buy, the fruits and vegetables I put into the bodies of my beautiful family. And, I’ve never really given them much thought. Them, who plant, and grow, and care for, and harvest my food. Out there all the time, working hard, while I complain about what’s not on sale this week, haggling over pennies for the best deal. Silly me. I’m determined to be more grateful. Because it’s a remarkable thing these companies that care, these people that bend and slice and bag my lettuce, that arrange for shipping and storing and sending food that nourishes and keeps our family healthy and well-fed.
And, that’s exactly what we got to see in Monterey last week. I was shocked. There we were, standing in a gorgeous, green field with little round heads of lettuce lined in precise rows. And a row of workers would bend and slice the lettuce at the root.
Then, they’d grab one of the plastic bags that hangs from their waist.
Then, are you ready for this? They’d put the lettuce IN.THE.BAG. Right there in the field!
No kidding. That iceberg lettuce you buy from your grocer was popped straight into the bag, fresh picked from a real field, by a real person. Perhaps you’re smarter than me. But, I literally had no idea this is how it all went down.
I was so thrilled to learn such a thing.
So was my Shaina. Obvs.
Of course, not all salad is bagged right at the field. Packaged salads actually go through a triple washing cycle at a highly sanitized production plant.
Friendly Salad PSA: Have you noticed the labeling on the Dole Salads lately? They are chock full of incredible information that you don’t want to miss. I know you’re whooshing your grocery cart around the produce section at a mile a minute, but when you next have the opportunity, take a second and READ THOSE LABELS. For one thing, they are gorg. For another, they have the Dole Salad Guide which offers up recipe ideas, pairing suggestions, and helpful flavor tips for every type of bagged lettuce.
And, believe you me. There are a lot of salads that Dole bags up. I know because they popped a quiz on us at the Salad Summit. Twenty-five different lettuces and veggies were included in our test. I nailed twenty-one of them, but that’s only because endive looks exactly like arugla.
No it doesn’t.
Gil from Dole taught us about the varieties of lettuces. He exuded such a passion for his work. Totally contagious. Not to mention we all agreed his hair rocks bananas. So, there’s that.
And then, there was the bus ride home. Oh, that ride. It was tender and sweet and full of strength and support. I’ve tucked that story away for another day, but suffice it to say that my sweet Jaden Hair of Steamy Kitchen is a living marvel. Her arms-wide-open approach to a life full of abundance is contagious. Her advice? Taken and treasured. And Maggy. And Shaina. It’s astonishing how quickly strangers can become friends in this wild blogging frontier.
We retired that evening to a special menu at The C Restaurant, created just for our event. It featured Dole Fresh Vegetables and it was incred. But, who has time to take pictures of the food when you’re oohing and ahhing all over it? Not me.
Time to head home Friday morning. But not before taking the famed 17-Mile Drive to Pebble Beach. Whyever do they call it Pebble Beach? Baffling.
Of course, we are bloggers. We had cameras. We snapped pictures. We are cute.
How I love this lot of ladies. Each one is just nice, nice, super nice.
And so what if we can’t jump very high. At all. We can all cook a mean fritatta. Which is totally what matters in life, you know.
The day ended with stop at the infamous Cypress Point, where we could look out over a breathtaking vista and ponder this old, sturdy cypress tree which has found root on a rocky cliffside. I can think of eleven allegories for life here, but will save you the diatribe and let you think up your own.
We sang Happy Birthday to Maggy. Cute, good Maggy, who I like a lot.
Then, it was time to say goodbye to friends and head off to home where my sweet family was anxiously awaiting my return. I had a quick stop in Phoenix, then a 2-hour layover in Denver which is silly, really. Because my house is an hour away from the Denver airport, so I could tricycle it home in the time I sat on cold, hard chairs at Gate D40.
Oh, wait. Did I say 2 hours? Scratch that and replace it with a five. Somewhere into the second hour of waiting, the airline announced a three hour plane delay. So, I called up the hubby and he said he’d drive right up and get me. Because he likes when I’m sitting at his side. So do I.
But then, all of a sudden, there is a whole group of friendly strangers conjuring plans to nab a shuttle ride home. Just when I thought my adventure was over, I find myself with a group of totally fabu folks, heading home in a giant white van, talking about the deep complexities of life and love. I live for stuff like this.
The entire trip, start to finish was pure delight. I arrived in bed that night with a billion stories, all of which my darling John patiently listened to until well past midnight.
(Top Row- Shanna from My Favorite Everything, Kathy from Lunch Box Bunch, Romy from Romy Raves, Debra from Smith Bites, Cheryl from Tidy Mom. Bottom Row- Yours truly, Dana from Fit Celeb, Kristen from Dine and Dish, Maggy from Three Many Cooks, Jaden from Steamy Kitchen)
The next morning found me grocery shopping. I steered my children to the lettuce aisle, grabbed a bag of iceberg, held it triumphantly in the air. “Guess what, guys? I totally saw this lettuce being bagged, right in a real field, by real people who work hard to get us our food.”
One of the many revelations of the trip. Thank you, Dole, for Monterey. For lessons learned, friends made, adventures had. But, thank you even more for taking such pride in producing fresh fruits and vegetables which grace our kitchen table and nourish our bellies.
Disclaimer: Dole paid for all expenses of this trip. However, the company set no expectations for my review of my time at the Dole Fresh Vegetables company headquarters. Everything contained in this post is my own opinion, and you can believe it because I told you it is. Now, go grab a Dole Salad, check out the Salad Guide, and have a green and happy day.