SALAD. Although the ancient Greeks and Romans did not use the word "salad," they enjoyed a variety of dishes with raw vegetables dressed with vinegar, oil, and herbs. Pliny the Elder in Natural History, for instance, reported that salads (acetaria) were composed of those garden products that "needed no fire for cooking and saved fuel, and which were a resource to store and always ready" (Natural History, XIX, 58). They were easy to digest and were not calculated to overload the senses or stimulate the appetite.
The medical practitioners Hippocrates and Galen believed that raw vegetables easily slipped through the system and did not create obstructions for what followed, therefore they should be served first. Others reported that the vinegar in the dressing destroyed the taste of the wine, therefore they should be served last. This debate has continued ever since.
The cookery writer Marcus Apicius of the first century C.E. offered several salad recipes, some of which were unusual. His recipe for "bread salad" covers the bottom of a large salad bowl with bread, then adds layers of sliced chicken, more bread, sweetbreads, shredded cheese, pine nuts or almonds, cucumber slices, finely chopped onions, then finishes with another layer of bread. A dressing made of celery seed, pennyroyal, mint, ginger, coriander, raisins, honey, vinegar, olive oil, and white wine is poured over the salad. Another dressing Apicius used on lettuce was a cheese sauce that included pepper, lovage, dried mint, pine nuts, raisins, dates, sweet cheese, honey, vinegar, garum (fish sauce), oil, wine, and other ingredients. Other Roman salads were similar to present-day ones, such as lettuce and cucumbers or raw endive dressed with garum, olive oil, chopped onion, and vinegar or a dressing of honey, vinegar, and olive oil. Roman salad dressings eventually became more complex. Apicius gave a recipe for one containing ginger, rue, dates, pepper, honey, cumin, and vinegar. With the fall of Rome, salads were less important in western Europe, although raw vegetables and fruit were eaten on fast days and as medicinal correctives.
Many medical professionals did not approve of fresh fruits and uncooked vegetables. Both were considered "cold" in the humoral system of medicine. To counter this coldness, salads were seasoned with salt and olive oil, which were thought to be "hot," thus counteracting the coldness of the raw fruits and vegetables. However, this health concern continued into the nineteenth century.
The Emergence of Salade
The term salade derived from the Vulgar Roman herba salata, literally 'salted herb'. It remained a feature of Byzantine cookery and reentered the European menu via medieval Spain and Renaissance Italy. At first "salad" referred to various kinds of greens pickled in vinegar or salt. The word salade later referred to fresh-cooked greens or raw vegetables prepared in the Roman manner.
Under the category of herbs and vegetables, Platina's De Honesta Voluptate et Valetudine (1470) included salads, such as raw lettuce seasoned with a vinaigrette composed of olive oil, vinegar, and salt; boiled endive, borage, or bugloss with a vinaigrette seasoned with calamint and mint parsley; purslane with a vinaigrette seasoned with onions; boiled mallow placed in a dish like asparagus and seasoned with a vinaigrette; pimpernel seasoned with a vinaigrette; sorrel served as a first course with bread seasoned with a vinaigrette; and asparagus served in wine. Platina also offered a salad (pantodapum) composed of lettuce, borage, mint, calamint, fennel, parsley, wild thyme, marjoram, chervil, sow-thistle, and other herbs seasoned with a vinaigrette and served in a large dish. Common Italian salads of the twenty-first century include insalata condita, a green salad; insalata caprese, composed of sliced tomato and mozzarella with fresh basil dressed with olive oil; insalata russa, composed of cooked vegetables; and insalata di mare, a seafood salad.
The French cookery manuscript La Viandier from the fourteenth century includes a recipe titled "Poree de Cresson," a leek stew, which mutated into a vegetable stew of a soupy consistency. La Viandier recommends serving boiled watercress and chard with oil, cheese, meat broth, and salt. In the following century the French sprinkled raw vegetables with oil and vinegar in the Roman manner. François Rabelais (1490–1553) mentioned a long list of salades, including ones with cress, hops, wild cress, asparagus, and chervil. In the next century Louis XIV (1638–1715) had a weakness for salads. According to the French culinary historian Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat, in History of Food (1992), Louis XIV "ate a prodigious quantity of salad all the year round." Hygienic precepts of the time held that salads were "moistening and refreshing, liberate the stomach, promote sleep and appetite, temper the ardors of Venus and quench the thirst" (Toussaint-Samat, 1992, pp. 695–696).
Prejudice against raw vegetables and fruit continued, and green salads were not commonly served on the tables of the upper class until the late eighteenth century. Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, in The Physiology of Taste (1986) felt obliged to recommend salads "to all who have confidence in me: salad refreshes without weakening, and comforts without irritating; and I have a habit of saying that it makes me younger."
Common French salads include salades simples, plain salad composed of raw salads and cooked salads composed of vegetables; salade andalouse, cooked rice seasoned with vinegar, salt, and paprika; salade de légumes, a vegetable salad seasoned with oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper; Rossini salade, truffles dressed with vinegar, lemon juice, salt, and pepper; salade parisienne, vegetable salad with lobster or crayfish and truffles dressed with mayonnaise; and salade Niçoise, composed of diced potatoes, hard-boiled eggs, French beans, olives, capers, tomatoes, and anchovies dressed with olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper. French salads are frequently seasoned with a vinaigrette of oil, vinegar, mustard, salt, and pepper. Anchovies, cream, bacon fat, garlic, lemon juice, egg yolks, paprika, and tomato juice are sometimes added to the vinaigrette.
English Salet or Salad
In the late fourteenth century the English salade or salet (also sallet ) was frequently composed of leafy vegetables served as an accompaniment to cooked meats or poultry. The Forme of Cury (c. 1390) includes a recipe that calls for parsley, sage, garlic, chives, onions, leeks, borage, mint, cress, fennel, rue, rosemary, and purslane. Other salad recipes included flowers, and later fruits, such as oranges and lemons, were added at least in a decorative role. John Gerard's Herball (1597) offered many serving suggestions. As new vegetables, such as sweet potatoes from the Caribbean and red beets from Europe, entered England, they were added to the list of salad ingredients.At first salads were simple compositions, such as sliced lemons with sugar. But these became increasingly complex and could be assembled from many herbs, fruits, nuts, spices, and flowers. In the late seventeenth century the grand sallet had multiple ingredients, including borage, capers, carrots, cowslips, currants, marigold, primrose, purslane, violets, and sugar and were dressed with oil and vinegar.
John Evelyn's Acetaria (1699; 1982) was the first salad book published in the English language. Evelyn defined sallet as "a particular Composition of certain Crude and fresh herbs, such as usually are, or may safely be eaten with some Acetous Juice, Oyl, Salt, &c. to give them a grateful Gust and Vehicle." He included roots, stalks, leaves, and flower buds but excluded fruit, although the juice and the grated rind of oranges and lemons were listed among the herbs. Evelyn's salads have no meat. His recipe for salad dressing says, "Take of clear, and perfectly good Oyl-Olive, three Parts; of sharpest Vinegar . . . Limon, or Juice of Orange, one Part; and therein let steep some Slices of Horse-Radish, with a little Salt " (Evelyn, 1982, pp. 121–122). But Evelyn banned garlic, although he admitted that Spaniards and Italians used it "with almost everything."
By the early nineteenth century the art of salad making in the French style had been introduced to England by émigrés who fled to London during the French Revolution. By the mid-nineteenth century salads and their dressings were taken seriously in England. Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management (1859–1860) includes the first known recipe titled "fruit salad."
Americans had little interest in green salads and most other salads before the Civil War. Some exceptions did exist. German immigrants brought with them hot potato salad, usually made with bacon, onion, and vinegar. The Shakers made fruit salads, which might not include any greens at all. The medical establishment considered raw fruits and vegetables unhealthy and the cause of illness. However, by the mid-nineteenth century the medical profession reversed its earlier opposition to eating raw fruits and vegetables and promoted salads as healthful. Poultry and cooked vegetable salads occasionally graced the American table.
During the 1880s salads joined the culinary experiences of all Americans. The first known American cookbook solely dedicated to salad making was Emma Ewing's Salad and Salad Making (1883). At that time molded salads, composed with gelatin or aspic and sugar or sweet fruits, were invented. Salads included such greens as watercress, dandelions, sorrel, chicory, escarole, chives, kohlrabi, and celeriac. Although tomatoes had been used as or in salads for decades, the ubiquitous lettuce and tomato salad first appeared in the United States in the late nineteenth century, when it became one of the more common salads in cookbooks. It was popularized by Fannie Merritt Farmer's Boston Cooking School Cook Book (1896). Another common dish was the perfection salad, which was composed of shredded cabbage, diced celery, minced onions, canned pimento, and chopped olives held together with gelatin, vinegar, lemon juice, sugar, and Worcestershire sauce.
European-style salads were served to the upper class in restaurants in large cities. In New York, for instance, Delmonico's Restaurant specialized in the then novel green salads dressed with vinegar and olive oil. Oscar Tschirky, initially a chef with Delmonico's, moved to the Waldorf Astoria, where he invented the Waldorf salad, a combination of lettuce, apple, and celery dressed with mayonnaise. Walnuts were added in the 1920s. The salads were popular, but the salad dressings were also. The New York restaurateur George Rector noted in Á la Rectors (1933) that a new salad dressing could become "the talk of the town" and could attract customers away from other restaurants. By the end of the century, salads had found a place in many middle-class homes and restaurants. In The American Salad Book (1899) Maximilian De Loup reported that Americans preferred them to "heavy bulky materials," and he believed green salads were the wave of the future.
Beginning in the late nineteenth century, salads were promoted by manufacturers of salad dressings and oils.
Until the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act in 1906, vinegar and olive oil were frequently adulterated with acetic acid and cottonseed, peanut, rapeseed, and poppy seed oils. To promote their products in the twentieth century, companies composed booklets of recipes for salads dressed with commercial dressings. Early commercial manufacturers of salad dressings included Best Foods, E. R. Durkee & Company, R. T. French Company, H. J. Heinz Company, Richard Hellman, Jell-O Company, Kraft-Phoenix Cheese Corporation, and Tildesley & Company, and those manufacturing oil included Mazola and Wesson Oil. By the 1920s, bottled mayonnaise and salad dressings were commonly used in households across the United States.
Salads flourished where the raw ingredients were easily available, particularly in Florida and California. Francis Harris's Florida Salads (1914) was revised and reprinted several times during the early twentieth century. However, California was considered the "land of salads" and salad dressings. Green Goddess Dressing, introduced by the Palace Hotel in San Francisco in the early 1920s, was purportedly inspired by the British actor George Arliss, then performing in the play by that name. In 1926 Robert Cobb, owner of the Brown Derby restaurant in Los Angeles, introduced Cobb salad, which consists of avocado, tomato, watercress, lettuce, bacon, chicken, Roquefort cheese, and a hard-boiled egg arranged in a striped pattern in a flat bowl and topped with French dressing. So pervasive was the California influence on food that the chef's salad became a meal in itself throughout the United States.
Salads arrived in the United States from other countries, continents, and cultures. German potato salad, a cold or hot side dish made with potatoes, mayonnaise, and seasonings, became popular in mainstream America in the second half of the nineteenth century. In the twentieth century Caesar Cardini, an Italian immigrant who opened several restaurants in Tijuana, Mexico, created the Caesar salad with romaine lettuce, garlic, olive oil, croutons, Parmesan cheese, Worcestershire sauce, and often anchovies. The Caesar salad became popular with Hollywood movie people who frequented Tijuana, and it quickly spread to Los Angeles and other cities. Italian immigrants helped popularize the lettuce and tomato salad and introduced cold pasta salads of tortellini, mayonnaise, and dill.
In the late twentieth century, health food advocates championed salads, which were greatly advanced by the invention of the salad bar purportedly by the Chicago restaurateurs Rich Melman and Jerry Orzoff, whose R. J. Grunts featured a long counter of greens, seasonings, vegetables, and condiments. Many restaurants and delis throughout the United States quickly adopted and expanded this concept.
Salad dressings range from simple to elaborate. Three common dressings of the early twenty-first century are vinaigrette, commonly called Italian dressing in the United States, composed of three parts oil to one part vinegar; Thousand Island, a mayonnaise-based dressing flavored with chopped tomatoes, peppers, and other ingredients that is presumably named for the small islands in the St. Lawrence River between the United States and Canada; and Roquefort or, more accurately, blue cheese dressing.
See also Apicius ; Brillat-Savarin, Anthelme ; Fruit ; Lettuce ; Oil ; Vegetables .
Adam, Hans Karl. Salate und Gemüüse, lecker und gesund. München: BLV Verlagsgesellschaft, 1973.
Brillat-Savarin, Jean-Anthelme. The Physiology of Taste; or, Meditations on Transcendental Gastronomy, translated by M. K. F. Fisher. San Francisco: North Point Press, 1986. (Reprint, originally published in New York: Knopf, 1978, 1949. Brillat-Savarin's Physiologie du goût originally published in 1826.)
De Loup, Maximilian. The American Salad Book. New York: Knapp, 1899.
Evelyn, John. Acetaria. London: B. Tooke, 1699. Reprint, London: Prospect Books, 1982, pp. 4–5. Originally published in 1699 as Acetaria: A Discourse of Shallets.
Ewing, Emma. Salad and Salad Making. Chicago and New York: Fairbanks, Palmer, 1883.
Harris, Frances Barber. Florida Salads: A Collection of Wholesome, Well Balanced, Easily Digested Salad Recipes That Will Appeal to the Most Fastidious. Rev. and enlarged ed. Boston: Bruce Humphries, 1926. Originally published in 1914.
Heath, Ambrose. Vegetable Dishes and Salads for Every Day of the Year, Collected for the British Growers Council. London: Faber and Faber, 1938.
Kegler, Henri. Fancy Salads of the Big Hotels. New York: Hotel Industry, 1923.
Murrey, Thomas J. Fifty Salads. New York: Frederick A. Stokes, 1889.
Ninety-nine Salads and How to Make Them, with Rules for Dressing and Sauce. San Francisco: Shreve, 1897.
Printz, Stacey. The Best Fifty Salad Dressings. San Leandro, Calif.: Bristol Publishing, 1998.
Rector, George. Á la Rectors. Fairbanks, Alaska: Palmer & Co., 1933.
The Salad and Cooking Oil Market. New York: Packaged Facts,1991.
Shapiro, Laura. Perfection Salad: Women and Cooking at the Turn of the Century. New York: Henry Holt, 1986.
Stucchi, Lorenza. Le Insalate. Milan: Fratelli Fabbri, 1973.
Toussaint-Samat, Maguelonne. A History of Food, translated by Anthea Bell. Cambridge, Mass.: Blackwell, 1992.
Andrew F. Smith
sal·ad / ˈsaləd/ • n. a cold dish of various mixtures of raw or cooked vegetables, usually seasoned with oil, vinegar, or other dressing and sometimes accompanied by meat, fish, or other ingredients. ∎ a mixture containing a specified ingredient served with a dressing: a red pepper filled with tuna salad. ORIGIN: late Middle English: from Old French salade, from Provençal salada, based on Latin sal ‘salt.’