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.