cross dressing….


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.


a salad of green leaves seasoned with the jus from a roast

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.

About Food,Photography & France

Photographer and film maker living in France. After a long career in London, my wife and I have settled in the Vendee, where we run residential digital photography courses with a strong gastronomic flavour.
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34 Responses to cross dressing….

  1. margaret21 says:

    Oh yes. You’ve said it all.

  2. ardysez says:

    Only today I had a very unpleasant and disappointing encounter with what was described as ‘salad leaves, with Cabernet dressing’. Is was a very expensive lunch at a reputable winery and what arrived was indeed green salad leaves but heavily laced with strips of sweetened red onion and also fresh green onion, neither of which were mentioned in the menu, and neither of which I can eat. Why do restaurants have to f— with things? Best quality ingredients simply presented are enough. In fact of the three courses I ate, the confit duck was the only nice thing. 😦 Beautiful photos and I must try avocado just that way! Looks delicious.

  3. An avocado that looks dressed to kill 😉

    • Certainly a good example of the fruit…so often I leave them hanging around for too long which means that when I cut them open, even though the outside looks perfect, the inside is brown and inedible….have to be quick with an avocado:)

  4. Mad Dog says:

    You’ve cross dressed that spoon marvelously 🙂

  5. One of the dressings here (U.S.) is the stuffing you put in the chicken (though everyone here is terrified of putting it into the chicken or the turkey so it is made in a bowl baked and called Dressing. It mystifies me. But different cultures are interesting.. c

  6. Francesca says:

    I was reading with anticipation to see if you covered ‘which way do you dress, sir’ and was not disapointed. It is early morning here, and I would be sitting in my dressing gown if I had one. I always stick by the French version of a salad dressing although with a little more vinegar than suggested by Mr Roux or go the Italian way, with a carlic crushed into the bottom of the bowl with salt, then some generous glug of Goood olive oil and a meaner das of vinegar. I also love Thai dressings- although I susppect the combinations of ‘hot, salty, sour, sweet’ are used more in the souther hemisphere.
    The only sad and deplorable dressing, and one that reminds me of Brritish cuisne in particular, if you can call it that, is the ubiquitous use of Mayonaisse from a Jar stuck on everything.

    • Too right…the mayonnaise jar is bad but not not as bad the bottle of “Salad Cream” that is still the choice of dressing for a large percentage of the UK…although they probably don’t put it on salad…more likely on chips:)

  7. Francesca says:

    And because I don’t own a dressing gown or smoking jacket, and I haven’t yet had a cup of tea, the last comment is full of typos which I am sure you can fix from your end Roger.

  8. Eha says:

    Brilliant first and last photos . . . to which I have to admit that tho’ I eat avocado thus at least once or twice a week in my infinite lack of wisdom I have omitted honey as part of ‘the dressing’: no more! Thought I was a purist but in my Antipodean ignorance or lack of taste or whatever I do use terms like ‘pasta salad’ and ‘rice salad’ or ‘egg salad’ and others obviously unbecoming . . . but would not know what other term to use: has nought to do with any possible ‘gloopiness’ of a bad dressing. Admittedly: geographical differences occur – Celi’s ‘fowl dressing in a bowl’ makes little sense to me either . . .

    • You’ve just got to be creative with new names…leave out the word “salad” and work from there….”last night’s pasta served cold”…”left over rice with stuff added”…:)

      • Eha says:

        Mr Wordsmith: that would not be a ‘name’, it would be a ‘description’ and I cook the pasta and rice FOR the dish 😀 !! [Oh, a propos nothing, remember being an engaged but very innocent 20-something who accompanied my husband-to-be to his tailors, and actually has to ask him afterwards ‘Darling, what did he mean when he asked to which side you dressed ?’ Yes well . . . makes me sound almost delightfully Victorian. . . ]

      • You’re quite right,Eha..I was just being daft:)

  9. Oh, I love your post, not just for the marvelous photography, but also for the education on Salad and dressings. I couldn’t agree more with , that goo poured over lettuce is just killing any idea of a salad. My favorite one is….. rice vinegar, olive or sesame oil, pepper and salt and a dash of brown sugar, with a table spoon of thinly sliced red onions ( the little ones) or chives. Voila !!

  10. MELewis says:

    Tu nous racontes pas de salades! Such a simple thing and so few get it right. Partial to walnut oil and cider vinegar myself.

  11. Conor Bofin says:

    Roger, you write so eloquently on the most minute of subjects. I love this post. Both for the language and the delightful photography.

  12. ChgoJohn says:

    Beautiful opening shot, Roger. I make a vinaigrette similar to the one you’ve described. To be honest, though, I very much prefer a little olive oil and a splash of red wine vinegar. I want to taste the salad’s fresh ingredients, not some glop.

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