“One cannot help wondering if an English salad is the result of ignorance or the aim of a curiously perverted taste.”
(X Marcel Boulestin, Simple French Cooking for English Homes, 1923)
It’s sunny again, I thought, I’ll go and find a nice salad recipe from 1948’s The Hostess Book. While the advice is often comically dated (you can use “cooked custard, cut into stars” to garnish soup, but be careful of red garnishes, as “[when] allowed to run riot, it can easily be made to look vulgar”), the recipes usually look pretty palatable so it seemed like a good place to start looking.
How wrong I was; Elizabeth Hughes Hallett (the author), clearly decided that salads were the ideal arena in which to display her culinary ingenuity. And so *drumroll please* I give you the uninspiringly named Individual Mixed Salads.
This is the only part of them that is drab, believe me.
1 teacup of sliced marshmallows
1 slice of tinned pineapple
1/2 teacup of white grapes
1/2 teacup of orange
1/2 teacup of chopped walnuts
A few thin strips of pimento
A few half grapes
A little finely chopped parsley
Cups of half oranges
Cut the oranges in halves and remove the meat. Put this into a basin and add the marshmallows cut in thin strips, the pineapple cut in small cubes, the grapes skinned*, seeded, and cut in halves, and the walnuts chopped roughly. Season, then turn the mixture into the prepared orange cups, cover with salad dressing, and garnish each top with the strips of red pimento and half grapes; then sprinkle with finely chopped parsley. Place on a fresh lettuce leaf and serve on a glass plate.
* As a side note, my granny used to tell me how she was expected to peel all fruit, including grapes, with a knife and fork at the dinner table, and I never fully believed her. I suppose it’s hat-eating time.
I more or less assumed that this was just a fruit salad placed with the other salads in the chapter until I got to the seasoning and salad dressing part of this madness. Marshmallows? And salad dressing? As you can see, I couldn’t bear to despoil this with layer of salad cream, but I did try dipping the individual bits in. This is not one of those quirky pairings that somehow work; it is pure blind lunacy in an orange shell. It’s utterly batty and I’d love to serve it at a dinner party one day with a straight face and see what happened.