The whole buffet begins from a large plastic tote containing plates, plastic ware, and dry goods. There's dried cranberries, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, and Cheez Its. Even though you have to start with a plate, all the other occupants of the tote are toppings for the salad, so we end where we start.
Next, we take turns bringing in the big plastic box of spring mix greens from Aldi or Sams or WalMart. We pile the green stuff high, and make a plan of action for what comes next. Jars of olives, banana peppers, pepperoncinis, and beets bunch in the center of the table. Most of the time, just like today, I use the juices from one of these jars as my salad dressing.
Sometimes, we have some extras, usually of the dairy variety, cottage cheese, cheese sticks, shredded cheese, and plain yogurt. Avocados are also a favorite treat.
Finally, after we circle around, the toppings are added to the mix. The plates teeter with deliciousness. The wisest of us has recognized the precariousness of the plates and changed her salad container to a glass Pyrex bowl that she washes each day, leaving the room a few minutes before everyone else.
The salads are crisp and crunchy, sometimes sweet, sometimes spicy. They are always delicious, and I savor them, just like the conversations and time I spend with these girls. We slow down for the tiniest bit of the day, and I am grateful for it.