I take a lot of food photos. Besides selfies, it’s probably the number two most popular category of photos on my iPhone. I’m certain I’m not alone in this; we’ve all been to restaurants where a friend has momentarily prevented us from starting to eat for that perfect photo. But, scrolling through my food photos on my phone, I’ve found an incredible amount of photos of salad.

Like, hundreds. Which is funny, because the amount of times I order salad in restaurants is, I don’t know, maybe 1 out of 10? But my food photos are overwhelmingly ones of salad (and tbh, mostly caesar salads—arguably the least healthiest salad ever). And even then, most of the times the salad isn’t even my main course, just a side dish. I’ve a few theories on why I have so many photos of salad:

  1. Salads are surprisingly photogenic.
  2. It’s an attempt to make me feel less guilty about all the other crap that I eat.
  3. It’s the first thing set at the table, so I’m most likely to remember to take the photo.

Let’s dissect this a bit. Because it’s a Sunday afternoon and what else are you going to do?

Israeli Salad
Israeli Salad

Salads are pretty

First off, salads can be surprisingly colorful. The green leaves, red tomatoes, yellow peppers, raisins, some sort of colorful dressing. In fact, salad is likely our most colorful food. If you order a red meat, it’s often brown (maybe red with blood). Chicken is white and whatever color sauce gets splashed on it. Grilled meats are relatively photogenic. Sausage is funny-looking (or delicious-looking—your call) and fish might come with the head still on. Pastas and vegetarian meals are yellow and sometimes lumpy-looking. Salads, though, are just a bunch of greens and colorful decorations scattered on top. Color.

I’m not saying food photos are ugly—because clearly I have lots. But the quality of food photography is largely dependent upon the chef’s presentation ability. And with a salad, there’s not quite as much effort needed to make it look photogenic. It’s just naturally beautiful.

Shrimp Caesar Salad
Shrimp Caesar Salad

Salads are aspirational

Second, I know my food photos are overwhelmingly ones of salad because it’s the easiest and best type to post to social media. We all curate our Instagrams (don’t even try to say otherwise) to present our best selves, so why not splatter it with photos of salad making all your friends think you’re so healthy? I mean, it works. Honestly.

Sure, I’ll post photos of greasy late-night foods like burgers and fries and you’ll get great interaction. Social media engagement falls into a few categories—there are those photos that are meant to be relatable, and then there are those that are meant to be aspirational.

Think about it—why do you follow all those fitness hunks on Instagram? I mean, besides the eye candy—we all secretly wish that was us. It’s the same in the travel industry. At most, many of us will get a true vacation (maybe two) in a year, yet travel magazines and blogs are continuously popular. Admit it: you probably fill up your Pinterest boards with beautiful images from around the world of places you’ll never see. Sorry, but hey—dreams are tough and money is tight.

And with salads? So many of us wish we were healthier but if you’ve got to choose between the fried chicken-cheese balls and a tossed salad, you’re gonna go with the heart attack. I do it. And I’ll do it again.

But why so many photos of salad on my phone? Because every time I order one I feel the need to immediately document it. To prove to myself—hey you ate something green! Good job! The funny thing is, I’m often eating the least healthiest salad on the menu.

Olive Garden salad
Olive Garden – free salad and breadsticks

Salad tastes good?

I mean, mostly? While in the United States last month I dragged my friends to Olive Garden for their all-you-can-eat salad and breadsticks. I mean, mostly I wanted the breadsticks but that salad with freshly grated parmesan (from a cute waiter, nonetheless) and those peperoncino peppers—yumm!

Caesar salads with all those extra fatty calories—also good. My parents swear by the wedge salad, and in Israel, the Israeli salad is absolutely fresh and delicious when done right. So yeah, salads are pretty tasty. But they’re mostly just the beginning of our meals and it’s hard to beat fried foods, juicy steaks or bread. OMG bread.

In conclusion, salads are pretty awesome for photography, for social media, and for making friends think you’re better than you actually are. Salads are pretty boring, too. But hey—that’s the point. Nothing is ever as exciting as we perceive it to be when looking from the outside. But if it works, it works. Also, maybe by writing this post I’ll eat more salads? You never know. I’m overdue for some salad photos on my Instagram. There are only so many gym selfies and lush travel scenes to share.

Salad on an airplane
Salad in an airport lounge

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