In this installment of our series on foods of the African diaspora, Jessica B. Harris celebrates her love for salads and one of her tastes of home.
wilted spinach salad with hot vinaigrette
Credit: Jillian Atkinson

East or West, sometimes home is best.

Such is the case with my diaspora dining. Sometimes, it's just time to take a small step back from the world to savor the world that is right at my fingertips. It may seem strange to be talking about the foods of home after our lengthy period of enforced home stay, but now that I am back on the road—in London, actually—I find myself wishing for my kitchen and the ability to throw together a quick meal from what I have.

At home, in Brooklyn, I am a fridge stocker: condiments, cheeses, salamis and more are staples. I always have two or three things that can be transformed into something that will not only keep me going, but also keep me smiling. There's always bacon on hand for adding smoky flavor to things, and, as I often have salad cravings, there's always a bag or two of greens that often includes some fresh spinach. Now, after only two days of meals from the lobby café, where things tend to be fried or wrapped, I've been craving green: the green of a well-dressed wilted spinach salad. 

I don't remember where or when I learned how to prepare this wilted spinach salad, but its simplicity is part of its charm. The bacon is fried to render the fat, which is then used as the oil in the salad dressing. With a bit of sugar and whatever vinegar is at hand, it all comes together in finger-snap time, and the hot dressing is poured over the spinach. Voilà!

I also love the fact that there can be additions. There are always onion slices, and I have been known to thrown in a handful of blueberries, some avocado pieces or a few sliced mushrooms— whatever my magic fridge yields. In the time it takes to fry the bacon, I'm eating.

That's one of the pleasures of home that I will miss now that I have begun to travel again.

Wilted Spinach Salad with Hot Vinaigrette, Red Onions, Bacon & Avocado

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Tired of hotel lobby meals as she travels, Jessica B. Harris craves greens and misses the magic of her fridge for yielding whatever she needs for a satisfying salad. Here she uses the fat from rendered bacon to create a smoky, hot vinaigrette to pour over spinach. 

This essay is part of the series "Diaspora Dining: Foods of the African Diaspora." In this monthly column with essays and recipes by Jessica B. Harris, Ph.D., we explore the rich culinary traditions of the African diaspora. Harris is a culinary historian and the author of 13 books related to the African diaspora, including Vintage Postcards from the African World (University Press of Mississippi), My Soul Looks Back (Scribner) and High on the Hog (Bloomsbury USA), on which the Netflix documentary series High on the Hog is based. She is the 2020 recipient of the James Beard Lifetime Achievement Award. For more from Harris on EatingWell, see Migration Meals: How African American Food Transformed the Taste of America and her Juneteenth Celebration Menu. Follow her on Instagram @drjessicabharris.