A Brief History of Salad Through Time
Salad dates back to Ancient Roman and Greek times, when raw vegetables would be seasoned with salt, herbs, and vinegar, and served as an appetizer or side dish. As time went on, salad recipes became more complicated and distinct types of salad emerged.
Tossing salad ingredients with a dressing and serving the results on a plate went out of vogue near the end of the 1800s, when it was considered messy to serve salad in this way. The popular home economics and domestic science movement encouraged housewives to serve their salads in “orderly presentations” which meant separating the ingredients, organizing them and getting the presentation spot-on.
Gelatin Molded Salads and Jell-O ® Salad Recipes
Molded Jell-O ® salad recipes and gelatin mold salads were incredibly popular, perhaps because they offered a way to suspend the salad ingredients in a gelatin layer and also adding flavor and texture. The sign of a refined household at the time was not to serve a “messy” plateful of green salad leaves but to organize and arrange them artistically.
Cooking experts investigated different ways to make salads more artistic and elaborate and, like the housewives of that era, agreed they could get maximum control using gelatin to mold the salad.
Tossed salads came back into fashion a short while later. Modern salads range from a basic lettuce, cucumber and tomato mixture with bottled dressing, to exotic salads with crisp noodles, unusual fruits, flavored croutons, gourmet seafood and more.
Defining Modern Salads
A salad in the Roman days would have been green with cheese, bread and a dressing made with vinegar, a fish paste called “garum,” olive oil, garlic, and salt. Black pepper was sometimes used but it used to be costly so it was rare. A modern salad, on the other hand, can take so many forms and feature all kinds of ingredients and ingredient combinations. The easiest way to define a modern salad is probably to say it is a combination of greens, vegetables and some kind of dressing, but even that can be too generalized.
Not every salad features lettuce or greens and some do not even feature vegetables (a good example being tuna salad or egg salad). It is a mistake to believe that every salad contains a dressing too. Insalata tricolore is a famous Italian salad and that is made with mozzarella, basil and tomato only. So it is more difficult to say what exactly constitutes a salad. Suffice it to say there is a salad for every occasion and palate.
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