Shockingly Good Salad Advice From 1699
Don't let today's trend story scare you. The fundaments of a good salad were established 300 years ago.
Today, The New York Times, in its omnipotence, alerted its readers to the now-ubiquitous trend of chopped salads in the eateries of the northeast:
The full list of toppings is mind-boggling. Customers ... could eat a different salad every day for the next century or so. If 40 sounds like a lot of toppings, it isn't. Chop't and Just Salad have more than 50 ... Some customers stand hesitantly, paralyzed by the options and afraid to get in line. They can always order a chef-designed salad, but that still leaves the problem of which dressing to put on it. Chop't has nearly 30.
What a seemingly impossible problem! Perhaps an answer comes in the form of John Evelyn's Acetaria: A Discourse of Sallets, a 1699 book that may be the only philosophical treatise on the subject of salads. Follow these rules the next time you get nervous in front of a salad artist, and you ought to be fine.
(N.B. that ſ = s, because of hilarious old-timey typesetting.)
Order tons of lettuce.
"By reason of its Soporiferous quality, ever was, and ſtill continues the principal Foundation of the univerſal Tribe of Sallets; which is to Cool and Refreſh."
Don't skimp on the pepper.
"Of approv'd Vertue against all flatulency proceeding from cold and phlegmatic Conſtitutions, and generally all Crudities whatſoever; and therefore for being of univerſal uſe to correct and temper the cooler Herbs, and ſuch as abound in moiſture; It is a never to be omitted Ingredient of our Sallets; provided it be not too minutely beaten (as oft we find it) to an almoſt impalpable Duſt, which is very pernicious and frequently adheres and ſticks in the folds of the Stomach."
Skip the cabbage, unless you're Dutch.
"Cabbage...is not ſo generally magnify'd by the reſt of Doctors, as affording but a craſs and melancholy Juice; yet Looſening if but moderately boil'd, if over-much, Aſtringent, according to C. Celſus; and therefore ſeldom eaten raw, excepting by the Dutch."
"Garlick: We abſolutely forbid it entrance into our Salleting, by reaſon of its intolerable Rankneſs, and which made it ſo deteſted of old; that the eating of it was (as we read) part of the Puniſhment for ſuch as had committed the horrid'ſt Crimes. To be ſure, 'tis not for Ladies Palats, nor thoſe who court them."
Raw mushrooms are for chumps.
"How these rank and provocative Excreſcences are to be treated...Boiling a full Hour (to exhauſt the Malignity) ſhift them in another clean Water, with Butter, as before till they become ſufficiently tender."
Don't use butter. It's a salad.
"Some who have an averſion to Oyl, ſubſtitute freſh Butter in its ſtead; but 'tis ſo exceedingly clogging to the Stomach, as by no means to be allow'd."
Get the dressing on the side.
"Mingle all theſe very well together; but pour not on the Oyl and Vinegar, 'till immediately before the Sallet is ready to be eaten."
Don't let any one ingredient drown out the rest.
"In the Composure of a Sallet, every plant should come in to bear its part, without being over-power'd by some Herb of a stronger taste, so as to endanger the native Sapor and vertue of the rest; but fall into their places, like the notes in Music, in which there should be nothing harsh or grating."
Make sure your salad artist has the proper equipment.
"The Knife, with which the Sallet Herbs are cut (eſpecially Oranges, Limons, &c.) be of Silver, and by no means of Steel, which  all Acids are apt to corrode, and retain a Metalic reliſh of."
Bring your own bowl.
"That the Saladiere, (Sallet-Diſhes) be of Porcelane, or of the Holland-Delft-Ware; neither too deep nor ſhallow, according to the quantity of the Sallet Ingredients; Pewter, or even Silver, not at all ſo well agreeing with Oyl and Vinegar, which leave their ſeveral Tinctures."
And if you're really lost, hand this recipe for a chopped salad to the salad artist:
"Minc'd, or Sallet-all-sorts. Take Almonds blanch'd in cold Water, cut them round and thin, and ſo leave them in the Water; Then have pickl'd Cucumbers, Olives, Cornelians, Capers, Berberries, Red-Beet, Buds of Naſturtium, Broom, &c. Purſlan-stalk, Sampier, Aſh-Keys, Walnuts, Muſhrooms (and almoſt of all the pickl'd Furniture) with Raiſins of the Sun ſton'd, Citron and Orange-Peel, Corinths (well cleanſed and dried) &c. mince them ſeverally (except the Corinths) or all together; and ſtrew them over with any Candy'd Flowers, and ſo diſpose of them in the ſame Diſh both mixt, and by themſelves. To theſe add roaſted Maroons, Piſtachios, Pine-Kernels, and of Almonds four times as much as of the reſt, with ſome Roſe-water. Here alſo come in the Pickled Flowers and Vinegar in little China Diſhes. And thus have you an Univerſal Winter-Sallet, or an All ſort in Compendium, fitted for a City Feaſt, and diſtinguiſhed from the Grand-Sallet: which ſhou'd conſiſt of the Green blanch'd and unpickled, under a ſtately Pennaſh of Sellery, adorn'd with Buds and Flowers.""
But at the end of the day, all salad is good salad.
"Whole Nations, Fleſh-Devourers (ſuch as the fartheſt Northern) becoming Heavy, Dull, Unactive, and much more Stupid than the Southern; and ſuch as feed much on Plants, are more Acute, Subtil, and of deeper Penetration."