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Sun, Jun 15th - 7:40PM

A Salad Afternoon

I just read a great essay in Saveur (in my opinion, the best of the food magazines) on the history of the salad. It seems the French sort of began the trend but served them after the main course.

 Iceberg lettuce, a can of shrimp, a teaspoon of lemon juice and Best Foods Mayonnaise, is a favorite summer salad of mine. Or, Iceberg lettuce, a can of tuna, grated cheddar cheese and Best Food Mayonnaise another favorite. OK, one more – Iceberg lettuce, julienned ham, julienned Provolone cheese and a very tangy homemade Italian dressing I make. I know that Iceberg lettuce has been referred to as “the polyester of vegetables” but I was raised with it and love its hearty crunchiness. Some of the other greens just seem wimpy. If they are done well, though, I always like a green salad of any type.

 For a personal salad memory, my husband turned me onto mixing dressings – try French and Blue Cheese sometime. Lately I’ve been keeping a plastic tub in the refrigerator with Mandarin oranges, black olives, black beans, hard-boiled eggs, dried cranberries, julienned cheese of some sort, Feta cheese and other goodies ready to add to the greens. Some deli meat julienned or a breaded and fried chicken strip from the deli down the way cut up and, yum city! One of my favorite salads is from the Red Robin Restaurant, barbeque chicken salad – Iceberg lettuce with strips of barbequed chicken, black beans, avocado slices, tomatoes, with Ranch dressing and garlic toast on the side.

 Growing up never once, that I remember, did I have a salad as a main dish. And, other than a can of shrimp added to Iceberg lettuce sometimes (with Best Foods Mayonnaise, of course), no piece of meat every touched the lettuce unless the main dish pork chop somehow sidled over to the salad on the plate.

 According to the history of the salad article, they really didn’t take off in America until after the middle of the last century. Some fancy restaurants had them regularly, but middle class dinner tables didn’t sport them much. Olive oil was sold only in small amounts in pharmacies for medicinal purposes and softening skin. A “history of the avocado” article in Saveur said that an avocado, in 1920’s America, would have been the equivalent to $9.00 in today’s money. Maybe it was things like that that held up salad’s popularity.

 With summer arriving here, I’m going to keep my plastic tub stocked with salad goodies and maybe this year I’ll branch out beyond good ole Iceberg. I had a lobster salad the other day with some chopped cabbage mixed into the salad greens along with the most intriguing salad accoutrement I’ve had in a while - candied pecans – now there’s something I’ve got to remember to add to my salad tub!


My Tangy Italian Dressing recipe:

1 cup vegetable oil

½ cup red wine vinegar

1 Tbsp. sugar

3 pressed garlic cloves

½ teas. dried oregano

¼ teas. dried basil

¼ teas onion powder

¼ teas salt


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