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When do you eat your salad?

At restaurants, salad being the easiest thing to serve quickly is a good enough reason to eat it first. But at home I eat salad last. Is this just me?

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  1. Pretty common to serve after the heavy stuff as a palate cleanser before cheese course, dessert. Once I tried it I liked it if it was a graduated dish sorta meal. I am more a home style gal so I like it all on the table..... horrid I know

    2 Replies
    1. re: torty

      Why horrid? I grew up having two-course meals, with main dish and all sides, including salad, on the table at once, then dessert - if we were having it - after, and this certainly how everyday meals go at our house now. That's life if you don't have a ton of time to cook and unwind each day. Of course, we do multi-course meals when we have time or for occasions, in which case, sometimes salad comes before the entree, and sometimes it comes after, depending on the menu and our mood.

      1. re: Caitlin McGrath

        I meant that some folks do not like all the food out at the same time. Personally per your scenario - that is life , and I like it that way

    2. I eat salad w/the main course, as a vegetable. i eat cheese, if i'm going to have it, beforehand, and dessert is fruit if anything. this is southern-italian, which i learned from my family, however i feel it's most comfortable for my digestion.

      1. I eat it after my main course if at all possible. It seems to aid digestion for what reason I know not and I tend to eat less of a main course if I know it is coming. I don't mind eating it first if that is how I am served but I dislike it served with the meal. A good salad should stand by itself.

        1. Depends on the salad, the meal and my mood. A bistro-style salad with lardons, croutons, minced garlic and a thick mustardy dressing only works as a stater. If the meal is Italian, the salad is simple and always goes after the main, which is also where I like it when dining on fish. Roast poultry I often plate with flavourful greens dressed with some of the roasting juices.

          1. I grew up in a food-phobic household where you ate your salad first so that you fill up on veggies before protein/carbs. If you need to trick yourself into eating vegetables, I guess it's a good strategy, but I'm prone to sauteeing some garil green beans at 11:00 at night for a snack, so I don't have that problem.

            1. I usually like salads first, but the boyfriend likes it last. I argue that we should have it first because the stomach can absorb more nutrients that way. But he says to have it last because we should eat the warm course first, without having to let it cool. And it helps digestion, like a lot of you said. But then again, when we're at his parents house, we mix the courses (like fara) and eat the main course with the veggies. I think I like the mixing with main course idea.

              4 Replies
              1. re: jennjen18

                google digestion, and you will see why a lot of people feel salad goes down easier w/other food. your stomach only digests protein, and it does not absorb anything.

                1. re: fara

                  that's bunk. anything that goes through your stomach gets processed.

                  same false hoo-ha as "negative calorie foods".

                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                    TRY reading some science first before you proclaim it "bunk." Your stomach releases HCl and enzymes that digest proteins ONLY. Enzymes that break down carbs and fats are released in the small intestine. All nutrients are absorbed further down the small intestine and to a small degree in the large intestine. Basic high school Biology.

                    1. re: fara

                      Ummm... basic biology may have taught you that the enzymes for digestion of proteins, but you should be more careful with your word choice when you say "does not absorb anything." This is incorrect. The stomach may not absorb any of the things in most salads, but it does absorb alcohol. Approximately 20% (more or less). Sorry, but your post is/was partially "bunk".

              2. I grew up having salad alongside the main meal and have always enjoyed alternating between the hot, usually tender textures of the meat and warm vegetables and the cool, crisp salad.

                My husband prefers his after the meal, so we alternate, depending on the meal.

                I don't enjoy having my salad first. I can understand why restaurants do it, but I don't really like it.

                1. First in restaurants, during the meal at home although I often have a large salad at lunch and don't have one for dinner.

                  1. I grew up eating it last, but it was on the table so one was free to pick throughout. Never first though. I really like it with my main course. It's a nice contrast to most things. And yes, somethign of a palette cleanser...

                    1. I grew up eating it following the main meal, then a light dessert. Never the first thing, if anything was given first it was more on the lines of a shrimp cocktail, or a little broth.
                      And now with my own family, I serve it along side the meal, but I am so stuck in my ways, I always eat last.

                      1. dining out = before the meal

                        dining @ home = with the meal

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: swsidejim

                          Does anyone ever ask, in a regular restaurant (not a multi-course type of place), to have the salad at another time, such as with or after the meal?

                          Just wondering if places have been accommodating like that. I can't imagine why not.

                          1. re: Covert Ops

                            I often ask to have it at the end, or else leave it alone when it's brought at the beginning and then snarl at anyone who tries to remove it before serving the main. I grew up eating it alongside, then became enamoured of the Italian order: antipasti, pasta, main course, salad, coffee. The French did it that way, too, as do my mostly-French in-laws. There's a French restaurant we all love down in Rosemead (LA area) that's run by a French-trained Vietnamese chef and his family, but the one thing that we find offputting is that they serve the salad first. I guess they found most of their customers expect it.

                            I did once get into a hassle with a waitress who refused to bring my entree until I'd either eaten or relinquished my salad. We had Words, and then the manager got involved, and it sorta went to hell after that, with my leaving her a dime tip and her throwing it at me...

                            1. re: Will Owen

                              What an unfortunate experience. What skin was it off that waitress' nose if you held onto your salad?

                              1. re: Will Owen

                                Will - That's how I do it. I ask for it to be served with my meal and if it comes earlier, I let it sit. I've also had the waitress attempt to get me to eat it before she'd put in my order for my steak. When I explained that I wanted to eat my salad WITH my steak, she was very apologetic and immediately put in my meal order.

                                Shame on the waitress that gave you a hassle - and threw change at you. Shame, shame!

                          2. Growing up in an English heritage household, salad was not brought to the table till after the meat course and veggies. Before dessert, if that was on the menu.

                            I serve it that way out of habit. I like the way it shines on its own. (may I admit that I hate making salad?)

                            1. Eh - salad. Hardly ever eat the stuff - too much chew, not enuf satisfaction. That being said, a good Caesar puts a big dent in that sentiment.

                              1. Growing up, it was always before. Now that I married into an Italian-American family - it usually comes with dinner, or sometimes, afterwards.

                                My personal preference falls somewhere inbetween depending on what type of salad, and what type of entree I'm eating. If it's a hearty salad, I prefer it first. If it's a simple salad I prefer it with/after the meal. If I'm having something like quiche or a fried cutlet (i.e. milanese style) of some type, I'd serve either of them on top of the salad and use it as the veggie.

                                1. We usually have salad after the main course at home. It's a generations long tradition in my mother in law's (Italian-American) family. Since it makes so much sense to eat the hot course when it's still hot and save the salad for after, we carry on the tradition, too.

                                  1. When we eat out, my husband eats about half his salad before the entree, and saves half for after. I eat mine first, mostly because I don't have enough self-discipline to put it aside. Plus I then eat less of my main course that way. Oddly at home we're completely different. He doesn't touch his salad until he's done with dinner and I have mine with our meal. Probably that's because we serve both at the same time. I never realized this until now!

                                    1. LOL! And here I thought I was alone. I prefer to eat my salad after a meal, to 1-cleanse my palate and 2-it helps my main course of my meal sit better in my stomach. Not sure if there are any nutritional benefits to doing this, I'd be interested to know from a Nutritionist if there is any. I understand most of the regular stuff even put into a "green" or "garden" salad has minimal nutritional value, but it's good as a source of water intake.

                                      1. My family always ate salad at the end of the meal. But I prefer to start with it. That way, I fill up with the healthy stuff and have less room for the rest. Plus, it gives me something to snack on while I'm cooking (or waiting for delivery).

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: piccola

                                          For similar reasons, I have evolved a system where I eat it last. That way, because I know that I have salad to eat, I don't fill up so much on the entree, and if we linger over dinner and conversation, I'll continue to pick more at the salad bowl than taking seconds.

                                        2. I'm 1/2 of a mixed marriage -- I prefer my salad "after" and my husband likes it "before". At home, it is difficult to accomodate us simultaneously because his dinner gets cold while he eats salad first OR my salad wilts while it waits for me to finish my main meal.

                                          My solution: we don't have a lot of salad "with" day-to-day meals. In the summer, salad often is our meal and I rationalize the nutrition as everything evening out over time ....... but then, I can rationalize most anything if I put my mind to it.

                                          1. I'm not American, and I find it hard to wrap my brain around the idea of having salad AND warm vegetables - I'm used to either hot vegetables, OR cold salad (but cold salad with a hot meat/pasta dish is fine... and potato wedges don't count as a vegetable :P ) If I'm serving salad I put it on the table at the same time as the meat because I hate eating vegetables by themselves.

                                            1. i like my salad first and then my main course.

                                              1. I much prefer my salad first. At home I sometimes serve salad and dinner together to make life easier, but I'll almost always eat my salad before my meal. My husband's family has salad at the end of the meal. I find this interesting since we are all New Englanders, meaning it isn't apparently a regional thing.
                                                My one exception is when having pizza, I like to dip my crust in the salad dressing (is that weird?!) and I find I eat my salad more towards the end of the meal...

                                                1. Traditional European dining puts the salad after the main course, as a palate refresher. Traditional American dining puts it before the main course, as an appetizer.

                                                  Why the cultural difference? No idea.

                                                  As for me, when eating out I'll eat the salad whenever it's served. At home it could be before, during, or after the main course, depending on the menu and the mood.

                                                  9 Replies
                                                  1. re: BobB

                                                    I'll often get a salad as an appetizer (if nothing else on the menu rocks my world), and generally try to "save" some of it to have with my main. What can I say: I'm a big salad person, and a meal w/out it just ain't the same.

                                                    Growing up, salad was served along mains -- it's a vegetable side dish after all. Never understood the idea of having it before or after the main. And I hate, hate, hate it when servers try to take my CLEARLY NOT FINISHED salad away from me before the main comes out.

                                                    1. re: linguafood

                                                      I ALWAYS have my salad with my meal. I LOVE salad! I take a bite of my entree and then a bite of my salad. =)

                                                    2. re: BobB

                                                      "Traditional European dining puts the salad after the main course"

                                                      Except in those European countries where serving a salad course is not a traditional part of our cuisine - which is most of them.

                                                      1. re: Harters

                                                        Quite true, and I've been greens-deprived in enough of them to know that all too well. I suppose I was thinking primarily of French meals (haute cuisine and all that), and should have been more specific.

                                                        1. re: BobB

                                                          Interesting you mention France, Bob. I visit annually and have eaten at all levels of restaurant (Michelin starred and down) and have never been served a salad course or even seen such on a menu (except as a starter - which, of course, is how we usually have salad in formal meals - or as a accompaniment in place of potatoes & veg).

                                                          I wonder if it might be a regional thing there - I only have real experience of Paris and some of the departments north of there (Nord, Pas de Calais & Somme). Maybe the salad course features elsewhere in the country?

                                                          1. re: Harters

                                                            I've spent time in various parts of France and have often been served a small, simple plate of dressed greens between courses, especially when there's a table d'hote menu. Seems to me this has also happened in Paris but after 15 years of extensive business travel to (almost) all parts of Europe things do start to blur together some.

                                                            1. re: BobB

                                                              A couple of times, with a table d'hote, there's been a handful of leaves served along with the cheese course. Nice.

                                                              Most recently in this place in a tiny hamlet near the town of Albert (Pas de Calais). Really good meal - "proper" French cooking. .

                                                              1. re: Harters

                                                                It does seem to be more of an old-school sort of thing.

                                                      2. re: BobB

                                                        "As for me, when eating out I'll eat the salad whenever it's served. At home it could be before, during, or after the main course, depending on the menu and the mood."

                                                        BobB, that's pretty much how we do it. But I also would add that sometimes salad IS the meal. We love fresh veggies and during the growing season will often just have a nice big salad and good bread for dinner - sometimes with some grilled shrimp or salmon added, but most often the veggies and fruits are the star. Salads such as panzanella or cracker salad also rank as the whole meal around here.

                                                      3. I grew up eating it with my meal but I prefer to have it before my meal. If it is served to me all at the same time I still eat the salad first. The way I see it, if I get full and can't finish my meal I'd rather waste something more fattening. If I fill up on salad it would be a good thing. It's purely psych.

                                                        1. I was just remembering a lunch my mom, sister and I had with a family in southern Italy. It was whatever big national holiday they have in March, and Teresa, the neighbor, had cooked a meal based on meat rolls cooked in ragu: first we had antipasti, then the orecchiette we'd watched her make served with the sauce, then the sliced meat rolls. There was no separate salad course, but heads of freshly-picked young romaine were passed around between the courses, to be pulled apart and eaten with the fingers. It struck me as a very old-fashioned way of eating that must pre-date any formal salad course by a few thousand years. At the time I remembered reading in Rabelais' "Gargantua" about the practice - this would be 16th or 17th Century - of eating fresh lettuce during a meal to quench one's thirst, as wine won't do that and the water couldn't be trusted.

                                                          1. My father has ALWAYS eaten his salad last at dinner for as long as I can remember. He swears it helps his digestion and he never has stomach ailments.

                                                            He also grows his own veggies and only like a couple splashes of red wine vinegar, a little olive oil and sometimes fresh cracked pepper on his salads. He would give you a hard time if he saw you drenching your salad in ranch.

                                                            1. I always thought the rationale behind serving salad after a meal was so that the dressing wouldn't clash with the wine consumed during the first stages of a meal. Of course, there are cheese course and dessert wine pairings, so I don't know if that makes any sense at all...

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: lunafish

                                                                Thanks for all the answers. I always thought we ate the salad last in my family because we were Italian. I'm glad to know that there are a lot of opinions out there. Salad was/is our dessert!

                                                                1. re: llucido49

                                                                  I can see the possible advantages of eating it after for digestion, although it's something I'd have to try to be very conscientious about as we are usually too full. I do believe it helps fill you up with healthy stuff and you will eat less heavier entree type food if you eat it before. I think it's a good way to get kids to eat their veggies too, as they're hungry.

                                                                  From years of being a former server, I can tell you that getting a salad, as well as bread for the restos that still do it, out quickly to diners shuts them up so to speak, takes the edge off their appetite and buys time, if you need it. And that's why they do it.

                                                              2. When I eat salad it IS my main meal.

                                                                1. If it's a small unassuming Salad I'll eat it 1st.