Happily, we have not only passed the age when Victorian modesty demanded a frilly covering for naked table legs, but also the more recent era when ” nicely brought up ” folk would protect delicate sensibilities from the disagreeable sight of a pristine roll of lavatory paper by weirdly concealing it beneath the skirts of grotesque knitted ladies in crinolines who stared outwards, from their home on the frigid cistern top of the Armitage Shanks, primly observing mens’ members pissing towards them and no doubt wondering why the owners of those members, when the flow had ceased, rather than shaking the last drops around the room weren’t reaching forward to put a hand up their skirt to grab a sheet of Bronco. The English language, or the users of it, have adapted the term “dressing” not only to cover their modesty but also to cover a multitude of other possibilities, the strangest of which may well be salad. Why in the name of sanity would one dress a salad and what could that even mean? Dressing a deer means to rip its belly open and gut the poor creature….I’ve tried that with a Cos which served as clear proof that another form of dressing would be appropriate for salad. There is “dressing down” which entails not wearing diamonds in case you piss off the less fortunate or, with the addition of the indefinite object, ” a dressing down” means a thorough bollocking and loss of privileges. “Dressing up” is less ambivalent as it may mean rifling through a trunk of of theatrical costumes to dress as someone who you are not or rifling through your wardrobe for your most expensive clothes in order to dress as someone you are not either. Were you, like Johnny, to have gone for a soldier ( a phrase that may well be misunderstood in current parlance) the command “dressing by the right” might well be shouted at you which would entail you looking over your right shoulder at the man next to you and shuffling around a bit until you, he and the rest of the Duke of York’s 5000 men were in a straight and evenly spaced line whereas if your tailor whispered “dressing on the right, sir?” it would be unwise to look at the man on your right and shuffle around a bit as you may well get a pin in the bollocks. “Cross dressing”, on the other hand, is how I feel when I see someone put a proprietary goo, called salad cream, onto salad leaves or raw vegetables.
The confusion induced by the misuse of the word “dressing” pales in the face of the many misappropriations of the word “salad”. How can salad ever be a bowl of cold rice with bits of other foods mixed through it; the concept may well be worthy and economic, an ideal that in my experience rarely pleases the taste buds of anyone save those retaining their nursery palate. I suppose “salad” has the purpose of signifying that a dish is going to be served cold although “salade tiède” is well known and it can’t be long before there is “salade chaude”. In spite of this, salad so often means that it will be a dish of various cold foods, often ill matched, stirred together with a gloopy sauce based mostly on vinegar, cornflour and sugar.I have seen potato salads in which the potato is unrecognisable to both the eye and the palate. However salad may be defined by the dictionary, my personal view is that the words “mixed” and “salad” should be kept separate. A green salad is my ideal and a green salad constructed of lettuce is perfect. In France lettuce is known simply as “salade” and that says it all. The warm jus from a roast chicken ( or whatever roasted or grilled meat takes your fancy) simply poured over a cool, crisp lettuce provides all the seasoning that the leaves may need.
Then there is vinaigrette which, when well made, partners a salad or crudités particularly well. For a good vinaigrette it’s important to stick with the traditional ingredients and to have a care with the proportions. Somewhere in the back of my mind is the memory of the young Michel Roux describing how to make a vinaigrette. The details and proportions are clear in my mind, but they might have nothing to do with M.Roux:
“Be a miser with the salt and generous with the ground black pepper. Add a teaspoon of Dijon mustard and a teaspoon of honey. To these flavourings add 5 tablespoons of olive oil (I now use 3 tbsps olive oil and 2tbsps of rapeseed oil) and half a tablespoon of red wine vinegar ( or whatever vinegar you like). Shake this in a screwtop jar until it emulsifies”
The avocado appears to have been created with vinaigrette in mind.