Monday, 21 January 2008

The great British salad


Okay, the connection between the following and Hopper's Nighthawks is tenuous at best but I like the picture and an internet search for a picture of a naff salad proved (I suppose unsurprisingly) - um - fruitless.A few years ago a book by John Lanchester - The Debt to Pleasure - was a surprise success; it was basically about food and is described by amazon as 'part cookbook, part thriller, part eccentric philosophical treatise'. Anyway, he has a section on salads and quotes a Victorian traveller, a Captain Ford, as saying 'the salad is the glory of every French dinner and the disgrace of most in England'.
Now isn't that so true? You may know the great British salad: shredded iceberg lettuce, sliced cucumber, slivers of tomato and, if you are 'lucky' for some bizarre reason radishes (don't ask me why radishes) sometimes figure. These items (excluding the lettuce) are sliced so thinly they bring to mind the scene in Goodfellas where Henry Hill and his pals are in prison but manage to acquire a razor blade to slice the garlic for their feasts as finely as possible. The great British salad of course has not a hint of dressing and is dry and as bland as can be imagined. This monstrosity is usually, but not invariably, peddled in catering establishments. I was presented with one in a certain Crown Court last Friday. I asked hopefully if they had any salad dressing. After a blank look a sachet of salad cream was produced.
THE GREAT BRITISH SALAD IS LOATHSOME AND SHOULD BE ABOLISHED FORTHWITH!
Insist on decent salads!!! Ones with beds of rocket or herb leaves, with interesting tomatoes, with diced sweet peppers, with spring onions, with celery, with diced avocado, above all with thick splodgings of dressing - vinaigrette, balsamic, honey and vinegar, whatever!
Rise up!!! You have nothing to lose but a pile of sachets of salad cream in an old box somewhere!!!

15 comments:

Charon QC said...

Enjoyed your blog - have added to my blogroll.

Law Minx said...

Bieng of Mediteranean blood, I whole heartedly concur with your views on the "british" version of salad i.e. tasteless, limp and pathetic, such that not even the most pathetic sachet of salad cream ( the contents of which is never enough to cover the entire salad to begin with) can redress its failures!
I say Ban iceberg lettuce (which appears in EVERYTHING these days, from Hydrogenated Fat Death Burgers to an appalling garnish to what would otherwise be a respectable sandwich) and Jail Salad Cream forthwith!!

white rabbit said...

Your minxness is of course quite correct. A related issue is the overpackaging of everything. Why do catering establishments have an array of sachets: vinegar, tomato ketchup (yuck!), brown sauce, mayonnaise, thingy sauce they always put out for fish and of course - salad cream. Not to mention little blue sachets of salt.

What's the bloody point? Why can't offer the salt in cellars and the rest in bottles/jars. Is it that they don't trust us not to do anything VERY BAD INDEED if they did?

Commercial Mayonnaise is a slight improvement on the dread salad cream but IMO is better on chios in the continental manner as opposed to salads.

white rabbit said...

Chips not chios. Memo to self: allways edit before posting

white rabbit said...

hoisted by own petard: only one 'l' in always...

time to do something else for now methinks..

downtown guy said...

I've heard legends of these things you Brits think are salads, but seldom run across anything that sorry. When you say salad dressing, what do you mean? Bleu cheese? Ranch? Mayo? Ginger? Green Goddess?

white rabbit said...

Sorry barely does them justice (I can think of much stronger language). As regards the question as to the nature of salad dressings, I think we have some transatlantic issues here. Basically stiff you pour over salads to sharpen up the taste. I looked at Wikipedia and it gave examples:

Balsamic vinegar
Caesar dressing
Creamy mayonnaise or yoghurt-based dressings:
Bleu cheese or blue cheddar dressing
Louis dressing
Ranch dressing
Russian dressing
Thousand Island dressing
Oil and vinegar, lemon, or soy sauce based dressings:
French dressing
Italian dressing
Vinaigrette
Wafu dressing
Tahini

adding 'The concept of salad dressing varies across cultures'

quite so...

To introduce downtown guy to a wider bloggership - he lives in Florida and has an interesting project - he's setting about reading every piece of dystopian literature he's aware of. This includes my novel 'twentytwelve' so I like him a lot! Have a look at his blog - well worth a visit!

downtown guy said...

Well, not every one I'm aware of, but damn close. The Big List does seem to keep growing, too. I'm about to add a new post - finished another this weekend.

Okay, so salad dressing is salad dressing, but on this side of the world we call it by the specific flavor. That is, you'd usually not just ask for dressing and take what they give you. It'd either already be dressed as befits that particular salad or you'd ask for bleu cheese, ranch, thousand island, etc. Ranch is actually sort of an across the board condiment this days, people dip everything in it. Fried chicken, pizza crust, fried dill pickles, fish sticks - you name it.

Law Minx said...

The only Commercial Mayo - if I MUST use it - I have any Time for is Hellman's.
The profligation of silly little sachets of vingear/salt/ketchup (brown and red)/salad cream and tatare sauce makes eating out a hazzard!
I am entirely in agreement with your choice of respectable dressings WR, as well as your thoughts on the gassed, prepackaged and rubbish nonsense that passes itself off as " salad leaves"- its much nicer to grow your own - the leaves are sooo much tastier!! its not hard !! In this respect I would commend you to a wonderful website, www.rocketgardens.co.uk which will attend to all your salad needs and then some!(*observes the Minx Chilli Plant, grown from seed, waving its little arms in agreement*)

Meatbe said...

You've hit upon a tasty topic here, WR. You know that I am a vegetarian; as such, I enjoy nothing more than a fresh salad loaded with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, green peppers, garbanzo beans, etc. My favorite dressing is raspberry vinaigrette. Fortunately, it is not difficult to find such salads where I live.

Meatbe said...

Hi Andrew--Ha! Who would have realized that there would be such problems in translation regarding food items. I will respond to your inquiries on my blog later. For now, I wanted to respond and let you know that garbanzo beans are what some call "chick peas" or "hummus." Perhaps you know them by one of those names. They grow primarily in mediterranean or tropical climates, and are often consumed by vegetarians because of their high protein content. I also find them to be quite tasty.

white rabbit said...

Your minxness - I agree that Hellman's is just about acceptable but on my list of things to do before I die (but near the bottom - it isn't quite up there with 'see Bruce Springsteen live' etc) is to make home made mayonnaise one day. The rocketgardens website has me thinking seriously about having a go! Thanks.

Matthew - chick peas - okayyyyyyyy!!! Instant comprehension. We mostly consume them as hummus - confusingly spelt houmous over here - pureed with garlic, lemon juice and olive oil and eaten with toasted pitta bread (it's seen as a Greek thing here) and eaten with olives, stuffed vine leaves and other Greek goodies. Digressing slightly, some linguistic confusin is explained by Americans using the Italian word where we use the French: for example, zucchini to you (and Australians) and courgette to us (and New Zealanders).
All very curious...

Law Minx said...

As a test of your culinary awareness, WR, ( not that this is "masterchef", of course) I wonder if you know what "Cilantro" is??!?

white rabbit said...

coriander :D

any suggestion that I googled this is of course to be deprecated...

Law Minx said...

D'oh ! ( smacks self in head) and there's me thinking you WOULDN'T Go Gooling......