SEA­SONAL SUP­PERS

The Irish Times Magazine - - FOOD- FILE -

Sal­ads are ubiq­ui­tous now. But what is a salad ex­actly? Is it any­thing thrown to­gether in a bowl and mixed? Surely not. My father- in- law adds ba­nana into his salad. Is this ac­cept­able? In con­tem­po­rary Ire­land? Ba­nanas are for eat­ing by them­selves or for mak­ing ba­nana bread ( which I love), but they are not for sal­ads. Am I be­ing to dra­co­nian? Each to their own, un­til you add ba­nanas into your lovely sum­mer salad.

Sal­ads are a truly an­cient phe­nom­e­non. The word “salad” comes from the Latin salata ( salty). In Eng­land, the word first ap­pears as “sal­let” in the 14th cen­tury.

Salt is as­so­ci­ated with salad be­cause leaves were sea­soned with salt dur­ing Ro­man times to aid di­ges­tion at the be­gin­ning of a meal. Es­sen­tially, a salad is a salted green leaf. So what hap­pened in be­tween? When did a leaf blos­som into some­thing more?

In truth, all veg­eta­bles have been a part of sal­ads since Greek and Ro­man times, though I’d say they were ei­ther pick­led or fer­mented from hang­ing around in the sun. Our con­cep­tion of fresh is some­thing only re­cently dis­cov­ered. Re­turn­ing to the good old days is not a good idea when it comes to food. Do we still have a prob­lem with eat­ing sal­ads in Ire­land? In his 1699 book, Ac­etaria: A Dis­course on Sal­lets, John Eve­lyn at­tempted with lit­tle suc­cess – I feel his pain – to en­cour­age his fel­low Bri­tons to eat fresh salad greens. Per­haps it’s the weather or the fact that we have no sum­mer that we strug­gle with eat­ing gor­geous light sal­ads as they do in the south the France, Italy or Spain.

One of my favourite sal­ads is chicken. I know this seems de­cid­edly bor­ing, given the wealth of chicken sal­ads in the coun­try. But of­ten they are made with no love, and a chicken salad made with love, with hazel­nuts, salted cu­cum­ber and some baby leaves ( Beech­lawn or­ganic farm do beau­ti­ful ones and de­liver to your door) is not the same as those sad Cae­sar salad with mir­cow­aved bat­tery chicken you find ev­ery­where.

Back to Ba­nanas. Not even in a fruit salad, I may add.

JP McMA­HON

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