John Larrysson's Kitchen: Salads, Climate and National Culture

England does not have a long history of salads. In the villages of cold Northern Europe it was a battle to keep warm enough to live through the dark winter. Historically Englishmen had no salads and fewer vegetables in their diet. They had to survive in a colder climate and needed more calories to keep warm. So meats, fats and grains were needed to provide life-giving calories. These days with heated modern homes, the older diet is no longer needed or healthy. England has adopted the habit of eating salads from warmer countries, such as France and Italy.

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The alien nature of salads has been mentioned in English history. Catherine of Aragon was a Spanish princess. She married King Henry the 8th of England in an arranged political marriage. (The marriage was famously problematic, but that is another story.) The royal household had to arrange for exotic salad greens to be shipped to England to feed her the salads that she had eaten growing up. 

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Like Old England, salads are also alien to Chinese cooking. There is a lack of raw vegetable dishes within the rich diversity of Chinese foods. Historically the English had the same attitude to salads. Until recently, in England salads have been very basic. The (20th C.) traditional English salad was wedge of iceberg lettuce maybe with a glob of a cheap bland store-bought dressing and maybe with a tomato sliced up into it. Things have improved with exposure to other European cultures, especially southern Europe. Now there are many types of salad greens.

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by John Larrysson [email protected]

A native English speaker who has been teaching practical English in Hong Kong for over two decades.

Related article: What is a salad?

The Garden Salad

Vegetable Salads

Fruit Salad & Gelatin

Salad Dressings

John Larrysson's Kitchen: 


NOTE: Starting in 2016, this column has been published once every two weeks, on every other Tuesday.

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