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.
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!