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Saturday, May 22, 2010

What's in a salad?

Salads are often thought to be the perfect summer dish. But what exactly defines a salad? Usually, the image is one of fresh raw vegetables dressed with a light sauce. Of course, as with any classification, lines blur. When I first started work, I ordered a salad plate at our cafeteria, which ended up consisting of a scoop of chicken salad, a scoop of tuna salad, and a scoop of macaroni salad. As I checked out, the lady manning the register looked at lunch, and said,

"Salads only? On a diet?"

What is a salad strains the category. Fruit salads often have no dressing. Meat salads can have little by way of vegetation, and be loaded with fat (as the above example describes). There are warm salads (like the brilliant use of hot bacon fat for the dressing), gelled salads (less frequent nowadays) and deconstructed salads where items are set aside for the diner to assemble. Of course, a wedge salad is barely a salad, consisting at it's core a wedge of lettuce covered in dressing.

And then there are things that perhaps could be called salads if we so choose. Ceviche and guacamole count there. Gado-gado, any generic stir fry (Mongolian or otherwise), and perhaps the Filipino halo-halo should count as salads in the spectrum.

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