Word Play: Salad (Part 1)

Like my earlier creativity game with the word “flower,” “salad” is one of those terms that is almost universally recognized, and yet depending on your habits, culture, or upbringing can have many different meanings. Thanks to a period in my life when I was a vegetarian, and my husband’s rampant carnivorous nature, salad also has emotional texture. For such a simple word, depending on the context, it can carry a lot of weight, both positive and negative.

So, what do you think of when you hear the word “salad”? What’s your first thought, and why do you think that is?

Please leave your word play in the comments, and feel free to use a link to a picture or drawing if that’s how you find it easiest to express.

And like the earlier creativity game, I will explore the answers in a later post, so pass it along and let’s see just how broad the perceptions of this common word can be.

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15 Responses to Word Play: Salad (Part 1)

  1. Linda says:

    That’s a very interesting question. I know my husband and I have very different definitions of “salad”. Paul makes all of our salads. His definition: it has to have lettuce. He prefers tomatoes, too. His other favorite additions are pickled or marinated vegetables like artichoke hearts, olives and roasted peppers. I get bored with the standard salad we eat every night or I see interesting salads in the food articles I read. He’s willing to try them, even the weird ones like shaved raw asparagus and Brussels sprouts. But they really aren’t a part of his personal definition.

    Me, well, I’m a chef. So my definition is much broader. Some raw vegetables. Stuff to go with them-cheese, nuts, fruit, meat, pasta , potatoes, whatever other ingredients make a good flavor blend. A salad dressing.

    I once had a delicious roasted vegetable steak “salad” in a restaurant that consisted of roasted vegetables, steak and a dressing. That leads me to believe that pro chefs define it as “something you put a dressing, as opposed to a “sauce” on. Since it didn’t feel like a “salad” to me, I realized that for me salads have to have raw vegetables. However, I do make some salads that are mixes of raw and cooked.

    • Margaret McGaffey Fisk says:

      Interesting how you conceive of a salad as components. I wonder if that’s because you are a chef. And yes, the “must have lettuce” is a common starting point…but not across all cultures.

  2. jjmcgaffey says:

    First, instinctive reaction – lettuce with stuff in it (tomatoes, avocado, cheese, nuts, weird veg like celeriac, whatever), and with dressing available (though an undressed salad is still a salad). Then I think about caprese and salade mono tomate…and the lettuce is optional. And _then_ I think about Mom’s tabbouleh – which she calls a salad but I don’t think of as one, like pasta salad and potato salad – yeah, no, picnic food but not really “salad”.

    Hmmm. I find that part of my definition is “a lot of trouble for not much food”. I don’t make salads – I eat raw veg or slightly cooked veg with other stuff (cherry tomatoes on the side of the plate, a whole tomato, spinach leaves and avocado in with a cheese sandwich (melted or not) – but I don’t make what I think of as “salad”. Funny. I make it at the parents’ (because they expect it), but not at home.

    • Margaret McGaffey Fisk says:

      I’m trying to remember what we considered a salad as kids and I can’t really remember much. The parents have a very elaborate salad ritual now, but I don’t think they always did.

      • Linda says:

        My mom is kind of OCD, so her version of salad hasn’t changed since I was a kid. Iceberg lettuce was always the main component. Julienned carrots and shredded purple cabbage. Tomatoes. Thousand island salad dressing. My dad used to make the dressing. He had his own recipe that he said he made up when he was a short order cook. He taught me how, but I never make it anymore because I don’t eat jarred mayo, ketchup, or the huge amount of sugar he put in it.

        Sorry to be long-winded, but you hit my favorite topic-making food, recipes, etc. 🙂

        • Margaret McGaffey Fisk says:

          Hey, I may come out of this with some interesting things to try, but long winded is good for my purposes. I was looking at it as a word we all “know” and you’ve provided three different “knows” for the pot. It may seem obvious, but these types of misunderstandings can cause huge problems when people with different backgrounds meet. Imagine a vegetarian trying not to make waves who says she/he will just have salad only to have a Cobb salad put on the plate. Nice and conflicty because it’s basic needs (food), along with political and emotional conflicts because of the reason for the dietary choice and the clash between the other person trying to be helpful and failing so horribly.

          • Erin says:

            Ooh, Cobb salad! How did I forget that one? One of my favorite things to order when out at a restaurant.

            • Margaret McGaffey Fisk says:

              Me too which is why I thought of it. Before that, the only “salad as a meal” I knew of was chef salad and that because it was offered at my junior high on the food cart.

  3. Erin says:

    When I was a kid, we had salad with every meal. Usually, that meant green salad (iceberg, green leaf, and red leaf lettuces; radishes; green onions; red cabbage; spinach leaves; and tomatoes on the side — occasionally, avocados as well; salt and pepper on the table along with an assortment of dressings), but we’d also have Waldorf salad (my favorite!), ambrosia (rarely), potato salad (all the time in the summer), and macaroni salad (not nearly as often).

    Now, usually if I say I’m making salad for dinner, I mean I’m making my pseudo-chicken Caesar salad: either romaine or green leaf lettuce in the bowl, chicken cubed and cooked over medium heat with some random spices, a couple types of croutons, and salad dressing (garlic Caesar, obviously, but also blue cheese and ranch). In fact, that’s tonight’s dinner plan. I make it at least once a week because the kids love it.

    I’ve also done Val’s chicken taco salads more than a few times, Waldorf salad (which I should plan to make next week, I think), and other usually lettuce based salads, such as some with steak strips or with pears and crumbled blue cheese and candied walnuts. Oh, and fruit salads! I’ve only done potato salad a couple of times since I got married, I think, and I should really make some this week.

    • Margaret McGaffey Fisk says:

      Wow, you really go into salads :). I see yours are largely meal replacements with protein added, which is interesting when you grew up on side salads.

      • Erin says:

        Yes. I love cooking, but I just don’t have the time and energy to do huge meals with sides and everything most of the time. So if we’re going to have salads, they will be the meal.

        • Margaret McGaffey Fisk says:

          Makes sense to me. It also means your whole family will eat such things. I envy you that. (see below ;)).

  4. Colin says:

    (This probably comes as no surprise to you, my love)

    When I hear the word salad the first think I think of is the old board game “Awful Green Things From Outer Space.”

  5. Pingback: Word Play: Salad (Part 2) | Tales to Tide You Over

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