The simple salad has come long way from the days of iceberg lettuce and bottled dressing

What's in your salad?

As things heat up, I am encouraged to see the garden grow, and know soon we will have our own veggies from the garden.

Salad is a staple at our house during the warm season and I love being able to gather the ingredients from the backyard.

I remember, as a kid, the usual salad was iceberg lettuce before we had a garden. That got me thinking about how far the idea of salad has gone.

My Gramps used to talk about lettuce like it was a wild plant, which seemed pretty strange to me. He spoke of using dandelion greens in a salad, a not very appealing idea in my book. As a five-year old, I thought he was teasing me when he said the kids were sent out to pick them. Nowadays it’s big kids called “foragers” who sell them at farmers’ markets.

Gramps 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.

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

So 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, allowing adventure and curiosity to take over from routine and familiarity. Globalization has also helped, as we see more ingredients that come from far-flung places that have become popular.

Don’t get me wrong, a good dose of familiarity now and again helps one keep their sanity. But salad is so much more than iceberg lettuce and bottled Kraft dressing. No offence to Kraft– I ate Catalina dressing and other similar concoctions as a kid—but I believe we have come farther in our evolution with preparing meals.

Making salad dressings from scratch is one place we can easily avoid extra preservatives and often extra sugar and fat, without sacrificing flavour.

I hope this encourages you to step outside your regular routine. Sometimes we don’t even have to go outside the comfort zone to mix things up but if we do, it can open a whole new world of experiences.

Just think, today, salad doesn’t even have to include lettuce. I have had watermelon, cucumber and radish salad that was a far more exciting tribute to crisp, crunchy, clean tastes than plain iceberg lettuce. Wedge salads, with iceberg and homemade flavourful dressing can be very homey, and 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.

At this rate, you can understand how salad has become dinner all by itself.

I leave you this week with a recipe I found that resurrects one of those dressings that became a representation of mass-produced blandness. Here it is elevated to a level where it has almost become the salad itself.

The suggestion was to serve it with iceberg lettuce, but I will leave you to choose your own canvas to paint on.

Happy munching!

Thousand Island dressing

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 “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.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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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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