Let me introduce you to the salad spinner I grew up with. (It is not, by the way, a life-changing salad spinner. Just hold on — I'll get to that one.) I had a feeling I'd find it on eBay, and here it is. "Vintage Copco Design Model Sam Lebowitz 604 USA Made." I didn't realize it was a designer item, but now I know. It's the kind of vaguely Danish 1980s relic that fits in with the other European-forward elements of my childhood home, like teak furniture, Weetabix cereal, and an intolerance for mass-produced junk food (my mom's, not mine).
I distinctly remember what a pain in the butt it was to use that salad spinner, but it was a necessary evil. We ate salad, and the salad had to be clean and dry. There was no other way. The first challenge was snapping the lid to the bowl so the funny little tabs lined up. The second was what happened once I'd start rotating the crank to spin the colander full of wet lettuce. If I went at it too vigorously, the whole thing would start to shake and vibrate and threaten to skip across the counter like it was exorcising a demon.
If I was ambivalent about, or reluctantly accepting of, salad spinners before, then my attitude has done a 180 in recent years. This has everything to do with an innovation in salad-spinning technology that makes the process of drying greens downright pleasurable. If you own one of these contraptions, then you know what I'm talking about. My new favorite lettuce dryer? The Oxo Good Grips Salad Spinner.
This is not a shill (I'm certainly not the only fan), but an ode to the sheer ease of pushing down on a pump and watching the basket spin, noiselessly, smoothly, in its bowl. You do it again, and again, until the salad (or kale, or Swiss chard, or herbs, or whatever) is dry. If you want the ride to stop, you just press a small break button, and it's over. It's as quiet as the cabin of a Lexus. It's so well-calibrated, so contained, that it's hard to imagine I once did battle with a quaking salad spinner that threatened harikari.
Our rocky past aside, I have never questioned the place of the salad spinner in the kitchen. It has a clear, important function: The bowl is the place where you soak the greens until they're free of dirt and debris; the basket is where you place them to dry.
It didn't occur to me until I read this mini-profile of the salad spinner in The New York Times Magazine that its very existence is under threat due to the American predilection for bagged, thrice-washed lettuce. Although I always knew this about myself, I never felt the need to proclaim it until now: I am not a pre-washed lettuce person.
I like my vegetables dirty. They should look like they came out of the ground. Sometimes, they'll even have bugs in them. And they should be properly cleaned with a salad spinner — my new salad spinner, which I love deeply and can't imagine life without.