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Too Many Cooks

For the love of Fery’s chicken spinach pasta salad

After reading “In the Kitchen with Fery Haghighi” in Wednesday’s Food section, Nikki Lockwood wrote in with her own memories of Au Croissant and Fery’s Catering.

A registered dietitian turned stay-at-home mom, Lockwood, 46, lives in Spokane’s Manito neighborhood. Here’s her story:

When I was a teenager, I worked at the U-City mall, back in the 1980's when it was full of stores and people, and definitely a hangout for all us “valley girls” and boys. My first real job was at the Great American Cookie Company, which I loved. Forming cookies from the dough (premade from scratch by the manager), baking, selling the big cookies and the teeny tiny ones by weight, and cleaning up the store at the end of the day, I loved it. 

Au Croissant had a shop near the Cookie Co. and I would occasionally splurge and have lunch there. I could eat all the cookies I wanted for free, but “real food” sounded good sometimes. This was before debit cards and I was a teen and so it just depended on if I had enough cash with me. The first time I went in there, I was amazed at the choices and all the good-looking food. I opted for a pasta salad and was hooked! They had a chicken spinach pasta salad, and it was so good. It had a tangy, peppery taste, and I had never tasted anything like it. My experience, coming from a working class family with both parents working, was just the macaroni salad that mom made, you know, mayo, tuna, little elbow macaroni and other stuff. So the spinach chicken pasta salad was a revelation and one of those foods that opened me up to the wider world of food. It was the early 80's in Spokane, not sure when “pasta salad” became popular but it definitely came onto my radar after that. Anyway, it was expensive to me, to spend $5 for a little bowl of it, but I would sit and eat it very mindfully, not even trying to distinguish the ingredients, that didn't occur to the 16-year-old me.

Eventually the Au Croissant shops closed and I would from time to time remember that first pasta salad love of my life. Skip forward many years to when my daughter was 5, about 20 years later, and we are at an outdoor potluck to celebrate the kids’ “graduation” from their preschool/kindergarten school. I have my plate of food and dig into some nice looking pasta salad, still standing around the table with all the food, and stop chewing and ask, “Who brought this pasta salad?” The dad who brought it pipes up and I ask him if he made it and he said that he did. I then share with him my pasta salad teen love affair with the old Au Croissant pasta salad. He comes clean and tells me it's from Fery's Catering, the same people that owned Au Croissant and it's been available this whole time.  

The thing is, he got it. He understood my love. He told me he has friends who are always trying to figure out the ingredients and re-create it. We shared a moment of food-love and because of that moment, I now know the salad is still available. From time to time, I stop by Fery's and get a little bowl of it. I can afford it more easily now, financially, but metabolisms change and a little bowl is probably enough anyway. Sometimes, I have to wait for it to be made, and patiently wait I do. What's 10 minutes after 20 years? Sometimes, I think I should ask for a job, so I can learn the secret of making it.

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