The French eat their salad last at dinner. It has become a tradition and is often a point of argument in my house as my husband is not French and prefers his salad course at the beginning of his meal. As with many cultures, tradition has to do with necessity and often times was inspired by historical events or as a means of survival.
During the French Revolution, the peasants were starving and those who could find food had to wonder about its viability. Cooks for the merchant and upper class used the plethora of fast growing, home garden lettuces combined with red vinegar as a combatant for whatever parasite might be looming in the questionable staples.
Garlic was infused in any meat that could be purchased. Garlic was a powerful cure, in those days, for infection. Making holes in the meat with the tip of the knife, cooks slid in a half or whole clove of garlic into each slot. The garlic was thought to kill off anything that might make one sick.
For those who could not afford meat and as added protection, the salad, grown in nearly every household was served last. Lettuce was thought to be a digestive, further assisting in pushing the main course through the digestive track and cleaning out the system after the meat was consumed. Vinaigrette infused with herbs and more garlic were added to the lettuce to clean out and kill parasites, mold or any harmful effects from slightly expired food.
Modern research is mixed on the best time to consume a salad, but eating lettuce and garlic in general seems to have its health benefits that the French have been enjoying for centuries. This week, with summer lettuce available, why not skip the store bought salad dressing and try my vinaigrette recipe. Pair your delicious salad with a lovely glass of your favorite wine. I know I will be enjoying mine at the end of my dinner. My recipe follows:
4 Tbs olive oil or walnut oil
1 Tbs vinegar (apple cider, red wine or balsamic)
1 Tbs French Dijon mustard
2 Cloves of garlic, minced and peeled
salt and pepper to taste
Crush salt and pepper into the oil. Add vinegar and mustard. Stir vigorously. Add garlic until combined. Pour into the bottom of a salad bowl, leaving it at room temperature. Add lettuce and vegetables. Stir from the bottom to combine just before serving.