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A salad a day. December 30, 2011

Posted by ourfriendben in recipes, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. Yesterday, I decided to indulge myself in one of my favorite activities, a visit to the antiques mall. I always feel that visiting an antiques mall is like time-traveling, seeing the way ordinary people lived in the past, what they used and what they cherished, what they displayed in their best rooms and what made up their everyday surroundings. It’s like going to a free museum, where you can learn things about your own grandparents and many-times-great grandparents that you’d never have known.

Thanks to Christmas, I had a tiny bit of spending money and was ready for anything, except, perhaps, what I actually found: The Calendar of Salads. This Art Deco gem was actually designed in calendar format, suspended from a braided silk rope, with a salad recipe for every day of the year. It had been updated for World War I, but clearly dated from an earlier era, at a guess somewhere between 1890 and 1910.

The author of The Calendar of Salads, Elizabeth O. Hiller, was described by the publisher as “One of America’s Four Famous Cooks.” Who were the others?! Fannie Farmer, no doubt. Perhaps Mrs. Beeton still loomed large in the American culinary landscape. But who else? This was long before Julia Child, long before Irma Rombauer of Joy of Cooking fame. I’m dying to know, so if you have an idea or a guess, please check in and share with us! 

You know you’re not in Kansas anymore when you flip up the cover of The Calendar of Salads and see that it begins with a quotation from Oliver Goldsmith, followed by a reference to Virgil. Having established a suitably literary tone, Mrs. Hiller goes on to bring in the dietary big guns to show why “salads play a very important part in our daily dietary.” She explains that “The oil [in the dressing] furnishes heat and energy as well as adipose tissue, while the uncooked fresh vegetables [think lettuce] contain valuable salts (mineral matter) which enter into all parts of the body’s structure.” In other words, the oil provides calories to help build up our fat deposits. Thanks for that.

Mrs. Hiller adds in her (as the publisher notes) “interesting foreword,” without further elaboration, the somewhat mind-boggling statement that “It is surprising the close relationship that exists between the eye and the digestive organs.” Er. Whatever. 

Moving on to the salads themselves, what does Mrs. Hiller suggest that we serve our families and guests? Let’s take a look:

For January 2, when people would presumably be recovering from the excesses of New Year’s, she offers this delectable creation:

                Frog Leg Salad

Cook 2 doz. frog legs in boiling, salted water until tender; remove the meat from the bones and cut in pieces; peel and cut 1 c. of cucumber or crisp celery, in small cubes. Toss all lightly together and mix thoroughly with mayonnaise. Serve in crisp lettuce heart leaves; add 1 green pepper, shredded, or 2 tbsp. pimientos, finely chopped, garnish with small radishes, cut to imitate tulips.

No doubt guests confronted with this dish would appreciate the delicacy of the tulip-shaped radishes. Skipping January 7’s Brussels Sprouts and Chestnut Salad, let’s move on January 11’s salad suggestion:

                Banana and Pimento Salad

Peel, scrape (with a silver knife) 3 ripe plantain (red bananas). Cut in three pieces crosswise, then cut each piece lengthwise in 9 strips. Sprinkle them with lemon juice to prevent discoloring. Arrange them in nests of lettuce leaves and strew over with thread-like strips of pimento. Garnish with Chantilly mayonnaise.

Hmmm, the “i” appears to have disappeared from “pimiento” between January 2 and 11. And I don’t know about you, but I’ve always been told that plantains had to be cooked to be edible. But let’s forget these quibbles and move on to January 19, which presents us with:

                       U. of C. Salad

Grate 1 c. American cream cheese; add 3 Neuchatel [sic] cheeses and work to a paste with a wooden spoon; add 1 doz. olives finely chopped, 3 pimientoes [whew, the “i” made it back in, but what’s with those “toes”?!] cut in bits. 1/2 c. chopped pecan nut meats and salt, paprika and few grains cayenne. Moisten with heavy cream and shape with butter pats in small ovals. Arrange in nest of cress, sorrel or lettuce heart leaves. Marinate with French dressing. Serve with horseradish dressing.

I don’t know if “U. of C.” referred to the University of Connecticut, Colorado, or California, but if students were eating this “salad” as part of their daily fare, I suspect their mortality rate was incomprehensibly high. And anyway, what was an oval butter pat shaper? Not to mention, how could anyone grate cream cheese? I’d love to know!

Finally, let’s give you one last salad to round out the month, January 27th’s, Sardine Salad. Oh, yum!

                      Sardine Salad

Remove skin and bones from 12 sardines, cut in 1/2 inch pieces, marinate with French dressing; let stand 1 hr.; drain. Arrange cress or heart lettuce leaves in a shallow serving dish; heap fish in center, cover with 6 deviled olives cut in thin slices crosswise, 3 sweet pickle gherkins cut the same; cut whites of 2 “hard boiled” eggs in narrow strips, arrange them over other ingredients like the petals of a Marguerite; force yolks through a sieve in center. Pipe mayonnaise around base of salad.

A Marguerite, by the way, is an especially lovely daisy. How delightful to find sardines lurking underneath!

If your mouth isn’t watering by now, let me remind you that there are still 361 recipes to go! If you have a special day coming up and would like to prepare a special salad, please do let me know. I’d be so happy to share Mrs. Hiller’s salad recipe for that day with you!

            ‘Til next time,

                        Silence

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Comments»

1. Lea's Menagerie - December 30, 2011

What an interesting find!
Any day you cannot think of what to write, just share the recipe for that day!
Have you watched any of the chefs on TV? Some of them can come up with some very strange combinations, too!
Best wishes for the New Year!
Lea

Thanks, Lea, and a very happy New Year to you as well! One of the more fascinating aspects of the salad calendar was that it kept instructing readers to make pyramids of the chopped-up ingredients. I could just picture myself trying to make a perfect salad pyramid, only to watch my “building blocks” topple time and again. Too bad they didn’t have those hollow sandcastle building blocks back in those days!


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