Latin Kales It Quits On Boxed Salads, Self-Serve Bar Returns


Will Baiers

The beloved Upper School salad bar has finally returned after almost two years.

On the first day back from winter break, students trudged into the Upper School with few expectations that anything would be different in the new year. After all, the community remained stuck in the same global pandemic, the weather was frigid as ever, and summer still felt lightyears away. But as in 2021, lunch debates remained prominent.

Would the endless pasta bar line welcome students into 2022? Would the toaster be broken again? And perhaps most importantly: Which boxed salad would await? Market greens, vegan taco, or maybe, if students were lucky, chicken caesar? Each of these questions became essential as lunchtime gradually approached, until students noticed something unbe-leaf-able in the servery. It seemed too good to be true: The salad bar was back!

After a nearly two-year hiatus, the full self-serve salad bar has returned from pre-pandemic times. As the saying goes, “You don’t know what you got ‘til it’s gone,” and that’s how many students felt after boxed salads took over in 2020. These pre-packaged lunches, albeit ideal when in a hurry, did not suit all dietary needs and stood inferior to the customizable bar that Upper Schoolers once knew. Now that Handcut Foods has finally lettuce rejoice, those looking to customize their greens can jump for joy at last.

Senior and salad connoisseur Marissa Isaacs, who advocated for the station’s return, noted the efficiency of this new system, thinking it will attract people who usually head elsewhere in the cafeteria. “The salad bar will hopefully make lunch a more efficient process for those seeking a quicker option, as the line is able to move much faster than other food stations,” she said.

Echoing Marissa, junior Alena Brandt thinks the salad bar will be a useful go-to for students running against the clock. “I remember that when the salad bar was last available, the line was fairly long but always moved very quickly, so it was also a good option for students who were short on time,” she said.

When entering the new salad bar—which also includes two daily soup choices—students can pick from either a base of spinach or spring mix. From there, a plethora of appealing toppings await, including broccoli, olives, giardiniera, peppers, sliced red onion, bacon bits, mushrooms, shredded carrots, blue cheese, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, corn, cheddar cheese, hard boiled eggs, fried tofu, and grilled chicken. Dressing choices are also plentiful, with options such as red and white wine vinegar, classic ranch, chipotle ranch, and balsamic. As for the romaine-der, croutons, seasoned pepitas, sesame seeds, and dried cranberries make the perfect topping for a balanced lunch.

Having the ability to craft personalized salads will undoubtedly make the entire lunch experience more enjoyable for the entire Upper School community, improving the cafeteria flow. Alena said, “Students who previously went to the never-ending sandwich line will now be going to the salad bar and make the whole process go a bit quicker.”

Even as more variants arise, CDC data still shows that COVID does not spread through food. In their guidance to schools during lunchtime, they also note “very low risk of transmission from surfaces and shared objects.” Still, proper hand sanitization is recommended both before and after meals, especially in high-traffic areas like schools.

Despite a resurgence of COVID cases in Chicago, the general consensus of the Upper School community is that reopening the salad bar was a safe choice. Citing the same CDC data, Marissa said, “If students are rigid about sanitizing their hands and keeping their masks on, there should be no possibility of COVID transmission from the salad bar.”

Alena agreed that Latin’s protocols seem appropriate, saying, “I trust [the school] enough to think that they made a decision that was safe.”

Next time you find yourself bombarded by the zigzagging pasta line that nearly stretches into the hallway, retreat to the new and improved salad bar for a speedy escape. The possibilities are endless, and olive your wildest salad dreams can finally be satisfied. In the words of junior Catherine Hubbard, “I’m really happy it’s back. Those were dark times without it.”

To pique your creativity, here are three salad ideas that will satisfy your lunchtime cravings:

Second Semester Scrumptious Southwest Salad:

  • Spring mix
  • Peppers
  • Sliced red onion
  • Corn
  • Cheddar cheese
  • Chipotle ranch
  • Seasoned pepitas
  • Cholula hot sauce (optional)

Mabel’s Majorly Marvelous Market Salad:

  • Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Mushrooms
  • Carrots
  • Cucumbers
  • Balsamic

Carefully Crafted Classic Cobb Salad:

  • Spring mix
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Bacon bits
  • Blue cheese
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Grilled chicken
  • Red wine vinegar