The evolution of salad

Bountiful harvest

As things heat up, I am encouraged to see the garden growing, and know that soon we will have our own veggies. Salad is a staple at our house during the warm season, and I love being able to gather the ingredients from the back yard - arugula, sorrel, chives, cherry tomatoes, cukes, and so on. I remember as a kid that salad usually meant iceberg lettuce with maybe the odd radish or a bit of celery sliced in. 

That got me thinking about the evolution of salad. . . .

My Gramps used to talk about lettuce as though it was a wild plant, which seemed pretty strange to me. He spoke of using dandelion greens in a salad, not very appealing in my mind – as a five year old, I thought he was teasing me when he said the kids were sent out to pick them - he was trying to get me to do the dirty work in the yard.

He also talked about lamb’s quarters, which sounded equally suspicious. I would learn later that what we now eat in many mesclun salad mixes had that earlier name because it has a leg of mutton sort of shape to its leaf. 

Not sure why I didn’t search out those greens earlier in life. I was never much of a fan of iceberg lettuce, which I figured must have that name because it tasted so watery. They say the name comes from the mountains of crushed ice used to transport the lettuce when it first became popular in the 1920s.

How, you may ask, did we get to where we are? 

I think we can pat ourselves - and our free-thinking parents - on the back for allowing adventure and curiosity to take over from routine and familiarity. Don’t get me wrong, a good dose of familiarity once and again does help one keep one’s sanity.

Thinking that salad was a lettuce that had little personality, served with a dressing that sometimes had too much personality was one of the things that held North American society back. No offence to Kraft, I ate Catalina dressing and other similar concoctions as a kid, but it was akin to thinking that watching a movie on one of those portable players is the same as being in a theatre. 

Embracing new ideas and creative quirks has brought us into a new age where we can hold our heads high, and say we know our stuff.

A salad by any other name

Just think, today salad doesn’t even need to include lettuce. I have had watermelon, cucumber and radish salad that was a far more exciting tribute to crisp, crunchy, clean tastes than an iceberg lettuce. 

Mexican bean salads and Thai noodle salads transport you clear across the world. Adding candied nuts to a simple green salad really takes it uptown, and adding tamari-roasted sunflower or pumpkin seeds lets me think of what it must have been like to be a hippie . . . if I keep going, we’ll never get to the rest of dinner.

I leave you this week with a recipe that resurrects a dressing that was once the poster child of bland and boring. This version is elevated to a level where it almost becomes the salad itself. The suggestion is to serve it with iceberg lettuce, but I will leave you to choose your own canvas.

Happy munching!



There is a debate on whether this recipe originates in Canada (the Thousand Islands are in the St. Lawrence River), or in the USA, where a chef in Chicago is said to have first whipped it up. Some say it is named to represent the thousand little chopped up pieces. This homemade version is certainly a far cry from the mass-produced condiment that has now become the special sauce for many a fast-food chain.

Fold together

1 cup mayonnaise
2 tbsp chili sauce
1 tbsp finely chopped white onions
1 tbsp finely chopped dill pickle
1 tbsp finely chopped cooked beets
1 tbsp finely chopped hard-cooked egg
1 tbsp finely chopped chives
1 tbsp finely chopped pimientos
1 tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf (Italian) parsley

Season with

½ tsp Worchestershire sauce
Salt, pepper

Mix gently with a rubber spatula and serve over lettuce.

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About the Author

Kristin Peturson-Laprise is a customer experience specialist by trade, which means she is someone passionate about people having a good time. 

Her company, Wow Service Mentor, helps businesses enhance their customer experience through hands-on training, service programs, and special event coordination.

Kristin enjoys her own experiences too, and that is what she writes about in this column. She and her husband Martin Laprise (also known as Chef Martin, of The Chef Instead) love to share their passion for food and entertaining.  

Kristin says:

"Wikipedia lists a gourmand as a person who takes great pleasure in food. I have taken the concept of gourmandise, or enjoying something to the fullest, in all parts of my life. I love to grow and cook food, and I loved wine enough to become a Sommelier. I call a meal a success when I can convey that 'sense of place' from where the food has come . . . the French call that terroir, but I just call it the full experience. It might mean tasting the flavours of my own garden, or transporting everyone at the table to a faraway place, reminiscent of travels or dreams we have had."


E-mail Kristin at:  [email protected]

Check out her website here:  www.wowservicementor.com


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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