Butter Lettuce Salad with Mango and Avocado

Today is Tim’s birthday, which makes it the perfect time to tell you how another year of living life with him—cooking together, working side by side, analyzing the nuanced details of relationships with each other, budgeting, traveling, laughing, yelling, learning about each other and from each other—has been such a gift. What is also a gift is that today’s post is not from me, but from him. He had something he wanted to say, and I cried when I read it. Hope you all enjoy it as much as I do.

Butter Lettuce Salad with Avocado and Mango

Today is my birthday. Ordinarily you would be reading a post from Shanna, and so I apologize today, because I know it sucks when you don’t hear from her—I know because I enjoy reading her writing more than you do. But for some reason, every now and again on my birthday I get strange feelings to do something out of the ordinary. I think it stems back in part to the kind of birthdays I had with my mom. My mom always let me skip school on my birthday, and it always felt like such a great gift, since I disliked school so much.

Butter Lettuce

There is something about the security of the ordinary days that gives you the strength to have the extraordinary ones. There is something freeing about structure and rules. My mom was the type of mom that made you feel like you could ask her anything and she would have a helpful response. Even if she didn’t know the answer and said so, it was the manner of her presence that made you feel like she could be trusted with your questions. She cared and, because she cared, the everyday routines and happenings provided a place of safety and growth, with protection for that growth. Self-control is a wonderful gift and parenting in such a way that helps to instill self-control, while also allowing expression, is a balance that comes out of a heart that is balanced–something my mom had.

onion and mango

She started to feel sick in 1992, but things around the house stayed the same. Many times it feels unfortunate to me how much we miss as kids. How much of the everyday, ordinary and routine habits of our parents that we gloss over because as kids we are being taken care of, and my mom continued to do that very well even when ill. Sometimes today it is a real fight in my mind to hear her voice and remember her manner. In 1997 she suffered the first of her five strokes and it shocked me when she would have the hardest time saying my name but could tell it was me. Eventually she regained her sharpness and wit and, even though the strokes changed her personality and left her partially paralyzed, she was still the same mom that I went to for practical advice. She still had a presence that made you feel safe to ask questions, even when she couldn’t stand up on her own.

My mom passed away ten days before my twenty-first birthday. I still have all sorts of weird emotions that I do not understand about it, but I am thankful that we had the time we had and that we were somewhat prepared for her passing and that she is suffering no longer. I really wouldn’t have it any other way, mainly because I entrust all things to Him who holds all things in His hands, but also because in God’s perfect way, my time with my mom was so good and she was so great that even the effects of her illness worked for everyone’s good, such that the things that are really valuable in life and the things that need changing come to the forefront.

Butter Lettuce Salad with Avocado and Mango-in-salad

So while it’s true that now I work to remember her, even if I can’t remember, so many things are already worked into me and who I am in the fiber of my being because of who she was and the environment that she created around her and the freedom it gave.


Butter Lettuce Salad with Avocado and Mango

Butter Lettuce Salad with Avocado and Mango

During the last several years of her life, my mom and I watched some cooking shows and I started to grow in my enjoyment of food and cooking. She gave me my love of Italian food. She gave me my love of fresh fruit and vegetables. She gave me my love of salads. We had a salad almost every night and I ate it up! (She also was the reason that I started studying health and nutrition in my spare time. So if you have wondered about some of the crazy health things you hear us doing, it is probably my fault and I am super thankful for a wife who goes along with my ideas). Whenever I think about how much I enjoy a good salad, I think of her.

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Top down view of Butter Lettuce Salad with Mango and Avocado on a white, ceramic plate.

Butter Lettuce Salad with Mango and Avocado

  • Author: Shanna Mallon
  • Yield: Serves two to three as lunch; more as a side 1x


  • About one small head of butter lettuce, torn into pieces; or, enough to fill 3/4 of your big salad bowl
  • 2 mangos, peeled and cored and diced
  • 1 avocado, peeled and pitted and cubed
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Combine lettuce, mangos and avocado in a big wooden salad bowl.
  2. Toss with drizzles of balsamic vinegar and olive oil, adjusting to taste as you go. Salt and pepper as you like.


A quick note on the salad, which literally is as simple as its title, with a dressing thrown on top: we also added two or three green onions, chopped finely throughout, when we had ours. The green onion adds a contrary bite to the otherwise sweet and smooth salad, so next time, I’d leave it out. Also, we went with two mangos, but they are so good, three wouldn’t hurt.

About Shanna Mallon

Shanna Mallon is a freelance writer who holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her work has been featured in a variety of media outlets, including The Kitchn, Better Homes & Gardens, Taste of Home, Houzz.com, Foodista, Entrepreneur, and Ragan PR. In 2014, she co-authored The Einkorn Cookbook with her husband, Tim. Today, you can find her digging into food topics and celebrating the everyday grace of eating on her blog, Go Eat Your Bread with Joy. Shanna lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with Tim and their two small kids.

25 thoughts on “Butter Lettuce Salad with Mango and Avocado”

  1. I would say that your mom’s presence is with you all the time. Raising you she made a permanent imprint on who you are, even if there are moments you can’t remember the sound of her voice. I bet your mom would be extremely proud of you. Your post was beautiful.

  2. What a wonderfully written post! You are so fortunate to have had such a memorable experience. Moms do not get sick days, it’s true. I’m thinking I should keep my kids home for their birthdays. Happy birthday Tim! I’m sure it will be a great day. Oh, and feel free to write a few more posts. It’s nice to see a husband/wife team write and cook together.

  3. Gorgeous tribute, Tim. And thank you for the reminder to “entrust all things to Him who holds all things in His hands” – because whether it’s the big things or the little things, this is how I want to live my life. Happy birthday!

  4. And he can write, too! 🙂 But seriously, I had tears in my eyes reading this. Such beautiful, simple words about such a wonderful mother. I really like this: “There is something about the security of the ordinary days that gives you the strength to have the extraordinary ones.”

    I also really like avocados and mangoes and butter lettuce, and this salad sounds perfect. Happy birthday, Tim!

  5. I think tears of joy, sorrow, and memory pair well with this simple fresh salad. You have conveyed such an achingly poignant picture – thank you for allowing a small kitchen window into your heart. You honor your mother profoundly in this tribute. I concur that your thoughts and words are worth contributing on a regular basis – you and your wife seem to compliment each other so perfectly. Blessings on your birthday!

  6. So edifying, as so many of the Food Loves Writing posts are. Thanks for sharing your experience. I love this blog and am so thankful for the perspective (and the recipes) offered! Happy b-day!

  7. My department director always says that she considers her birthday to be her mom’s day too since she wouldn’t be here without her mom giving birth. Following that logic, this blog post is a wonderful present to honor your mother as you celebrate your birthday. I’ve noticed a lot of stores have avocados on sale right now as part of their “Cinco de Mayo” promotion.

  8. Happy Birthday Tim!

    I’m so glad to have you post on Shanna’s blog, now we finally hear from you in first person! we’ve heard so much through Shanna, it’s cool to have u post, especially on your birthday!

    I think the best things in life – like having such a wonderful mother like yours – will always leave us with an impact that changes the way we see things and treat others. I’m sure your mum’s gentle but firm and protective way of bringing you up has played a large part in making you the wonderful person Shanna always raves about.

    you and shanna make a wonderfully complementary pair!

    Happy birthday again & god bless!


  9. Very beautiful post. What you describe about your mom seems the epitome of great parenting. Our parents (and our mothers in particular I suppose) really are in the fiber of our being. I love your thoughts on structure and the freedom it can give as well. A very happy birthday to you! It’s nice to read your voice after hearing so much about you from Shanna 🙂

  10. My screen looks quite blurry right now : )

    Loved this post, Tim. Praising Jesus with you, right now through tears, that you found the ugly-beautiful in your mom’s passing. So challenged by her life that I never knew, except through these words.

    p.s. Happy Birthday : )

  11. I am so grateful God brought you two into our lives. This filled my eyes with tears, but the message of faith and confidence in God fills me with hope. When I think how your mom’s illness and death led to you being a force for good in Brad’s health, I’m humbled.

    Love you guys, through and through.

  12. Hey everybody, I just wanted to pop over here quickly, on behalf of both of us, and thank you for your kind comments today. Your comments have reminded us again of the value in telling the truth about our lives and sharing our stories in a way that is honest. Glad we can share ours with you.

  13. Tim, this was beautiful in every way. Your mother sounds like a such a kind spirit. I’m so glad you shared this about her today. Happy birthday and love to you both! XO

  14. a heartfelt and beautifully written post that is a tribute to both your mom and you. while i know you said you have a hard time remembering certain aspects of her now and i’m sure you do, her true essence lives on as demonstrated by the what you hold dear and how you live your life. Happy birthday to you.

  15. Sometimes when a person goes young, it feels like they knew it was going to happen, and live a whole life in half the time. And there´s so much to learn from that. Just like you feel you had time to learn the important stuff in life from her. Happy belated birthday!
    PS: Shanna regularly writes about `us´, so this post fits perfectly

  16. First of all, happy belated birthday, Tim. Oh my gosh. I don’t know how I ended up back at this post. It seemed to just show up on my computer tonight. I needed to read this. It touched me in numerous ways. Tim, you know I think the world of you and now even more. I often think about the way your world view and health view was formed because of your mother. We never know why people are taken from us before what we think is the right time. The best gift we can give them is to live well, to live right and know they had a part in that. I’m sure your mother is so very proud of you. Shanna, thanks for giving this post over to Tim. Really touching.

  17. This is a lovely salad, I like the addition of mango. Last year I grew from seed over a thousand head of butter lettuce and we (and the neighbors, and strangers too!) enjoyed it so much. It’s delicate and so good.


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