In the last few decades the salad has become a full participant in our meal-time activities, but it spent a long, hard time reaching that acceptance. Today one can walk into almost any restaurant and expect to find at least a small choice of salads big and hearty enough to make a meal of, but it wasn't always so. Once relegated to either anappetizer or a side dish, it was a meal only for people who where either watching their figure or recovering from a medical problem. The salad was considered effete at best and a dietary chore at worst.
Salad prejudice dates back several hundred years ago, when eating raw food was considered the next best thing to suicide. Food handling and storage was unhygienic. The causes of disease were little understood. It was, if you will, the Dark Age of Vegetables. People of that time figured the best way to avoid getting sick from their food was to cool the disease (and the flavor, and the nutrients) right out of it.
It took a cooking revolution that lasted from the early 1800's to the late 1980's to get salad into its rightful place on our menus. Salad pioneers at New York's Delmonico's Restaurant began creating tasty salad dishes for their wealthy clientele in the mid-1800's, putting the salad on the american culinary map. For a long time salads remained a dish of the elite, saddling salads with a hoity-toity reputation in most of the country. California was more accepting, however, even in the gold-rush days, paving the way for great american/californian salads, like the Caesar and Crab Louis.
Today both health and flavor conscious americans make salad a regular part of their diet. While nutritional education and evolving attitudes have contributed to the vindication of the salad, it was the persistence of salad makers and lovers that really made the salad what it is today. So when you enjoy your next salad, you can feel good that you're no only eating haalthy, you're participating in one of the great culinary success stories.
How often do you have salad? What do you like in your salad, and on it?