Christina Culver says the secret to an amazing salad is to “go crazy”.
If you order one from her Vancouver business, Culver City Salads, you’ll find out what she means. Her massive, colourful salads typically feature mixed greens, a legume, potato or yam, a blanched or steamed veggie, and avocado, with a miso-and-tahini-based dressing.
“Try playing with dressings,” Culver advised during an interview at the Georgia Straight offices. “Don’t just buy one from the store.”
The West End resident is the founder and co-owner of Culver City Salads, which started up in April 2012 and now makes between 60 and 100 salads a week. For $12.50 a pop, you can have quinoa salads, soba-noodle salads, and brown-rice bowls delivered for lunch in downtown, Gastown, and Kitsilano between Tuesday and Friday.
They’re also available at the Juice Truck (Abbott Street and Water Street), a food cart in Gastown. In the fall, Culver launched a website, after initially accepting orders via email and Facebook.
All vegan and wheat-free (the soba-noodle salad is the only one not gluten-free at this time), the salads are made from scratch daily in a Strathcona commissary. Culver uses as many local and organic ingredients as possible, varying the mix every day so customers don’t get bored.
She says she always liked cooking for others and hosting parties. After Culver went vegan four years ago, her friends encouraged her to spin her salad-making talents into a business.
According to Culver, while women generally don’t find it a stretch to place an order, men are often dismissive of the idea until their girlfriends get them a salad. Then they’re pleasantly surprised by how filling and protein-packed her “giant meal salads” are, she noted.
“It doesn’t taste like some girlie diet salad,” Culver said. “It tastes like a meal.”
For spring, Culver intends to add a raw salad, cookies (chocolate chip, peanut butter, ginger snap, and double chocolate chip s’more), and perhaps drinks and sides to the menu. But that’s not the only way she wants to expand.
In March, Culver plans to apply for a food-truck permit from the City of Vancouver. For the upcoming round of applications, city hall expects to issue permits to 15 or so successful parties in May.
An all-vegan, gluten-free Culver City Salads truck would feature grab-and-go and customizable salads, as well as soups, curries, stews, and kale chips. Culver hopes that her healthy concept will give her an edge in the “scoring system” used by city hall to select new food vendors.
“I really want one,” she said. “It’d be super fun, and then I could really start to expand the menu, too. We’d be able to do daily specials.”
Making “super-filling” salads—what she calls a “meal on a bed of lettuce”—helped Culver make the transition to a vegan diet. But if she realizes her dream of having a food cart, you won’t find her there “spouting” her beliefs.
“I’m more here to break down some stereotypes,” Culver said, “and prove to people that you can eat a healthy meal that also tastes delicious and makes you feel good.”