Bite by Bite
Conquering My Culinary Bucket List One Dish at a Time
By Emily Banks Wooten
I recently ran into a friend at HEB who, peering into my shopping cart, asked if I was preparing a dish for this page. I chuckled and said no, not exactly.
Looking in my cart, there were three bags of various types of salad greens, a couple pints of grape tomatoes, bell peppers, avocados, cucumbers, a red onion, a lemon and three bags of roasted peanuts. I told her that we were trying to incorporate more salads into our diets as we’d like to lose some weight. Although that is true, I then confessed that I simply didn’t feel like cooking that evening so we were going to have big salads for supper. (And no, we don’t typically put roasted peanuts in our salads. That’s our snack – or guilty pleasure – for late-night TV-watching.)
The timing, however, couldn’t have been better, as I just recently learned that May is National Salad Month. Created by the Association for Dressing and Sauces in 1992 – I kid you not – National Salad Month encourages people to incorporate more salads into their daily food regimen by, ahem, turning over a new leaf. In other words, changing our eating habits, getting creative with our salads and basically, inspiring others around us to do the same.
And while researching this, I found some fun facts about salads on a website called National Today, a site in which the goal is to gather all the special holidays and encourage people to celebrate them with special events and plenty of fun.
According to the site, lettuce comes in second as the most popular fresh vegetable in the U.S. right behind potatoes. It also said that back in ancient times, Egyptians viewed lettuce as an aphrodisiac, making it sacred to Min, the God of Fertility. The site explains that salty dressings generally season spinach and that the word salad comes from “salta” which is Latin for “salted herbs.” And finally, it shares that American growers in the 1930s saw a 33% increase in the consumption of spinach, crediting it to the popularity of the cartoon character Popeye the sailor.
The site also included a timeline with additional facts about salads. In the 4th century BC, Aristotle wrote about the health benefits of Swiss Chard. In 1504, Leonardo da Vinci was the first artist to paint salad. His piece, “Leda,” depicted the goddess of fertility holding a bouquet of lettuce. In 1894, iceberg lettuce was developed as a solution to long distance transportation issues related to other types of lettuce. In 1924, Caesar Cardini, an Italian chef working in Tijuana, created the Caesar salad, although his version omitted anchovies and only permitted the use of Italian olive oil. In 1939, a restaurant in Chicago opened the first salad bar.
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