The weather is starting to warm up, and the last thing most of us want to do is stand in a hot kitchen cooking. This month we are taking a look at fresh, crisp salads. After starting this exploration, I realised how little I knew about the fine art of salad creation and presentation. Surprisingly, there were many full articles dedicated to salads as opposed to our other themes: cakes and biscuits. Salad creation should be taken seriously; the newspapers will guide us through simple to complex salads, preparation and presentation, unique salad combinations, and, most importantly, the salad dressing.
To begin our journey into mixed greens, the Evening Despatch gives us a history of the salad. Lettuce has been enjoyed as early as the Persian kings, and delicious tomatoes, apparently known as love apples, were brought to us by the Peruvians. Did you know that initially beets were cultivated for the leaves rather than their scarlet root?
Britannia and Eve is full of advice and tips for creating the finest salad. The author of this piece, A H Adair, who wrote the book on salads, explained
‘a salad could be a plain salad – green, crisp and fresh – or an amusing, almost vicious, mixture of fruit, vegetable and green stuff’.
In this piece, Adair explains the best method to create a plain green salad as well as exciting mixtures like salade des deux mondes, which features pineapples, or the cherry ripe salad featuring cherries.
Adair regularly contributed culinary articles to Britannia and Eve. In 1933, she wrote Salads and Salads: A Little Collection of One Hundred and Fifty Recipes for Salads–Plain and Complex, Sweet and Savoury–Together With Much Sound Advice on Their Preparation. Adair’s other published works include Dinners Long and Short (1928) and Eggs, One Hundred and Twenty Ways of Cooking (1932).
In another article, Adair tells us that the essentials for salad making are a ‘large salad bowl of glass, china or wood, with spoon and fork. Real olive oil and wine vinegar, fresh herbs if available, if not some herb vinegar’. The article provides recipes for a June salad with green peas, lettuce, and tomatoes and a summer salad with lettuce, tomato, carrot, chives, chervil, and tarragon.
Outside of Britannia and Eve, we found many newspapers that carried recipes for salads. In 1935, the Sheffield Independent published ‘how to create an attractive salad‘ with an emphasis on the presentation. The newspaper invited readers to submit their own recipes for a competition. The winner was decided a week later: Mrs Pigett of Chesterfeld with her Victoria salad. The salad consisted of cucumber, lettuce, and radish arranged in a circle surrounding brown bread and butter slices. Anchovy or shrimp paste was spread on one side of the bread and then the slice was rolled into a cylinder shape and arranged standing upright in the centre of the dish. An image was not provided. It is up to our imaginations to know how this would all look together. But the description must have been enough for the judge who awarded Mrs Pigett first place.
The Dundee Evening Telegraph explained that salad making monotony was caused by using ‘the flavouring and ingredients [we] like to the exclusion of all others’. The article looks at different ingredients and how to maximise their flavour with cooking instructions and combinations such as asparagus, beet, crab, and banana.
Besides vegetables, meat and fish can be added to a salad to make it more filling. The Northern Whig provided a few salad recipes using bacon, corned beef, and chicken. Curiously, the article is titled ‘salads from meat or fish’ but does not include a recipe for a fish salad.
We did find a recipe for mock lobster salad provided by the Ministry of Food in the Falkirk Herald. It also gave us a recipe for a salad dressing and macaroni salad.
We found different combinations outside of the basic green salad such as tomato and anchovy or prune and cheese.
All salads should be dressed; no one likes a naked salad. Adair tells us that,
‘for complex salads, a plain oil and vinegar affair would be quite out of place, like a dowager in Court dress without any jewels’.
We found a popular Canadian salad dressing using dry mustard, salt, white pepper, castor sugar, and vinegar. The recipe calls for a gill of vinegar. Gill (or Jill) was a measurement equal to a quarter of a pint or a teacup.
Many of the recipes above also provide instructions for the salad dressing. However, we also found that many recommended the popular Heinz salad cream.
We cannot mention summer salads without taking a quick look at some fruit salads. This recipe recommends layers of cut fruit with castor sugar and fresh thick cream.
And we will finish off today’s blog with more suggestions from the master of the salad, A H Adair. Adair tells us that a fruit salad is ‘a dessert as health-giving as it is delightful’. It should be ‘cool, soft and refreshing, and it is a mistake to think that any odd fruit can be used for it’. This last article provides recipes for a pineapple salad, a mixed fruit salad, and an orange and strawberry salad.