09 Apr

Do you eat your salad before your main entree or afterwards?  In our Canadian restaurants, we are served our salads before our entree, and at home we are more apt to eat our salad with our meals.  However, I have recently learned that in France, unless your salad is your main meal, you eat your salad after your main course.  Do they know something we don’t?

Two nights ago when I had a salad with our main meal, I waited and ate it at the end.  Perhaps, it served as a means of cleansing my palate before dessert? However, one web-site I read suggested that this order could also aid in our digestion.  Interestingly, this same site said that that is what traditional French cooking accomplished, but that purpose isn’t as effective with  modern “French cuisine with its more  elaborate salads and dressing flavours.”  (http://frenchfoodom/od/explorefrenchfood/p/frenchcourse.htm)

In other words, eating salad after your meal isn’t beneficial if your salad has a a high caloried dressing, cheese,  and nuts rather than a simple vinaigrette with lettuce and vegetables.   Similarly, those  that caution extends to those advocates who recommend eating  salad before your main course in order to curb your appetite.

Regardless of  whatever benefits we may experience eating our salads before or after our main dish, it seems rather obvious that we need to respect the tradition in the country we are visiting.  Sadly,  I have read that some tourists actually insist having their salad first!   No wonder the French get a bad reputation for being rude to tourists since we are being rude when we don’t respect their traditions.  I for one will be having my salad after my main course and who knows I may return back home embracing that custom.

Besides eating my salad at the right time,  I also need to practice eating my salad correctly.  You know how you are sometimes in a restaurant and the lettuce has not been cut into very small pieces and you need to cut it into smaller pieces with your fork?  Well, apparently, that is rather insulting to the chef since it infers rather loudly that he didn’t serve it “perfectly.”   Stephen Clark in his book Talk To The Snail offers a more interesting historical reason:  This is because, long ago, when cutlery was made of iron, the vinaigrette made the lettuce taste of metal.”    Well, both of those reasons may be perfectly legitimate, but how do I eat some rather large pieces of lettuce?  I was relieved when I read Adrian Leed’s advice:  ”  cutting your lettuce is simply not done … so,  learn to fold the lettuce onto your fork until it’s small enough a package to put into your mouth.  Strange, but true.”  (Adrian Leeds Top 1– Cheap inside Paris Restaurants)  I tried practicing this also two nights ago but I was eating baby romaine lettuce which didn’t need a lot of folding.  Actually, eating smaller pieces, but just a little too large to put on your fork may be even be more awkward.  I wanted to use my knife to help me fold it in half.  I am going to experiment with large pieces of lettuce and work on my technique!

A last piece of French etiquette  regarding eating salads that I need to remember is that  when I have finished, I am supposed to place the tines of my fork downward rather than upward.  The technique is easy, but my memory is sporadic.  Therefore, I think I will adopt this practice right now!

1 Comment

Posted by on April 9, 2012 in France, Paris, Travel


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