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What is your definition of Salad?

Long story short, everyone's definition of salad is different. In my case, salad always include leafy vegetables, with or without meat, egg, or fish...etc. I was surprised many years ago when I was served with the famous snicker/marshmallow/green apple salad:



To this day, I understand that others call it a salad, but I secretly have yet to consider it a "salad".

How about you? What is your definition of salad?

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  1. I think of salad as including leafy vegetables, though then I don't know where to put pasta salad or egg salad or tuna salad for that matter. Good question.

    1 Reply
    1. re: fldhkybnva

      <pasta salad or egg salad or tuna salad >

      Good point too. Let me first say that I love egg salad. I also like pasta salad and tuna salad. However, as you can tell, I didn't think of them when I think of "salad".

    2. So a mixture of fruits isn't a "fruit salad" to you?

      1 Reply
      1. re: ferret

        <So a mixture of fruits isn't a "fruit salad" to you?>

        That is an excellent point. I think, knowing myself, I do consider the fruit salad as salad. I would probably consider the snicker salad as a salad if it is just green apple and marshmallow/whip cream, but the moment we toss in half a bag of candies..... that just push me over the edge.

      2. It needn't have a leafy vegetable. A slice of tomato with oil and vinegar is a salad. Add fresh mozzarelly and basil and it's insalata caprese.

        1 Reply
        1. re: GH1618

          Yea now I have no idea the definition. At first I thought hmm, something mixed together that's dressed but that doesn't work for caprese.

        2. I think the Snickers Salad is appropriately named. Certainly drew a few snickers from me.

          1. Potato salad is one of my favourites. Another is coleslaw so in my view it is not just about the leafy greens. Interesting word that is difficult to define.

            9 Replies
            1. re: chefathome

              Yea, although I guess I never thought of coleslaw as a salad but I will now.

              1. re: chefathome

                Slaw contains cabbage, a leafy vegetable. My potato salad contains celery, a leafy vegetable.

                1. re: GH1618

                  True enough except for jicama and carrot or broccoli slaw! :-)

                2. re: chefathome

                  Coleslaw and potato salad are bound salads.

                  1. re: deet13

                    Yes, but salads just the same. :-)

                    1. re: deet13

                      Bound salads- I can't help thinking of little handcuffs. But seriously, that's a great description of those salads. I wonder if I missed it in the early versions of The Joy of Cooking.

                      1. re: EWSflash

                        Or "bound and gagged" as in Nancy Drew books. :-) Or just gagged as in some Jello-shredded carrot-Mandarin orange segments-wheat berries-Dream Whip concoction.

                        1. re: EWSflash

                          Bound salad's what my grandmother used to call ham, chicken, pasta, potato salads, and coleslaw.

                          I assume that she heard the term from her mother, or she heard the term from Julia Child, Justin Wilson, or perhaps Graham Kerr. She watched their shows religiously when I was a kid.

                    2. Does the tossing of a combination of ingredients make it a salad? Dressing alone use to work but doesn't account for salads served without or preference w/out dressing.

                      My own definition is based on that: tossing a combination of ingredient together, served as one dish: salad.

                      27 Replies
                      1. re: HillJ

                        Ding ding ding! I think we have a winner!

                        1. re: HillJ

                          But you can toss pasta with the sauce ingredients to make a main dish. Not a salad.

                          A salad is what is served just before or just after the main course which is not soup.

                          1. re: GH1618

                            And I think it is cold. Not necessarily raw, but cold. I can't - off the top of my head - think of a hot salad. Maybe warm. Maybe room temperature, but not hot.

                            1. re: chicgail

                              German potato salad.

                              From Jaques Pepin: Warm cauliflower and carrot salad.

                                1. re: GH1618

                                  Pasta as in pasta salad, sure.
                                  Pasta with sauce is not a salad.

                                  1. re: fldhkybnva

                                    Caprese is not a salad in the formal sense but served as an appetizer, no?

                                    1. re: HillJ

                                      In formal dining, the salad course follows the main course. So if caprese is served then, it is a salad, not an appetizer.

                                      1. re: GH1618

                                        Works for me. I've had this dish done in a more salady way and loved it.

                                  2. re: HillJ

                                    My own definition is based on that: tossing a combination of ingredient together, served as one dish

                                    By that definition, just about every Chinese-style stir fry dish would be a "salad".

                                    A side of fried rice salad to go with your kung pao chicken salad, maybe?

                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                      I would say that it's a case of not every combination of ingredients tossed together is a salad, but all salads are a combination of ingredients tossed together. :)

                                      1. re: SaraAshley

                                        I would say a salad is not one of those "muchies" ....

                                        Drunk or sober, probably.

                                      2. re: ipsedixit

                                        No that's OT. I was focused on salads with ingredients made by most definitions and Chinese style is STIR FRY, no?

                                        1. re: HillJ

                                          Of course, it's stir fry.

                                          After all, I said it was stir fry, but stir fry by definition is "tossing a combination of ingredient together, served as one dish" -- which is what you defined as salad.

                                          Ergo A=C.

                                          All of which is to stay that a definition of "salad" is too slippery to pin down. Sort of like a definition of "love" or "pornography" -- you know it when you feel it, or see it, respectively.

                                          (As an aside, a Salade Niçoise is not "tossed" but composed, as are many other types of composed salads - are composed salads not "salads" per your definition?).

                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                            No one would confuse stir fry with a tossed salad though. Clearly the perception plays a role in the definition. And since I can get a ginger salad with my stir fry I know no one is confusing this generally.

                                            1. re: ipsedixit

                                              Plus like most of the discussions surrounding definitions, what area of the country/globe we are referring to definitions change.

                                              So what I grew up calling a salad is very clear in my mind. I would never call a Chinese stir fry, a sauced pasta or mozz and tomatoes sliced on a plate a salad. Two entrees and a side dish if you please.

                                              1. re: HillJ

                                                So Salade Niçoise? Not a salad?

                                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                                  Ah that's a good one. Yes, salad by my own definition. That's what Home Cooking called a composed salad during August dish of the month.


                                                  1. re: HillJ

                                                    I think a lot of us (myself included) are drawn to bright-line rules when it comes to categorization of things - ie this is that and this is not that because of this whatever random factor.

                                                    But more often than not the universe is not so neatly organized, nor so easily labeled.

                                                    Sometimes we should just be happy that we have so much leisure time - in terms of mental acuity and energy - to cogitate and debate such things.

                                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                                      LOL, sometimes? I haven't drawn inside neatly, organized lines in at least 45 years and I have no plans of starting now.

                                                      All of that to say, eat your salad anyway you please. I'm happy to enjoy mine.

                                                      1. re: HillJ

                                                        It is like porn in that you know it when you see it.

                                            2. re: HillJ

                                              Chop Suey (Tsap Sui) -- the American dish, is probably best categorized as a salad.

                                              Of course, so is mizeria, and half a dozen mezes from the Middle East, including baba ghanoush and hummus.

                                              I say go with what the culture says.

                                              ... or you could characterize a salad as "anything that would give you an upset tummy if served in a 3rd world country"

                                          2. re: HillJ

                                            <tossing a combination of ingredient together, served as one dish: salad.>

                                            While this is a very wide/forgiving definition, would it be too wide? Of course, it is your definition, and I am not here to challenge anyone's definition. I am just curious. Since most Chinese stir fry (dishes) are about tossing a combination of ingredient together. Are most Chinese food -- salad?

                                            *Edited* Just noticed this point has been bought up.

                                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                              Chop Suey counts as a salad (though it's not a chinese dish), I'd say.

                                              1. re: Chowrin

                                                <Chop Suey counts as a salad (though it's not a chinese dish), I'd say.>

                                                Who counts it as a salad? You or the general public or the culinary schools?

                                          3. Interesting question! I can't wait to see what people say. Thanks for coming up with this!

                                            1. Pretty much any kind of raw vegetables, chopped up into small pieces, and dressed with something. Meat, eggs, beans, olives, pickles, grated cheese are optional. I often put canned beans in my salad.

                                              4 Replies
                                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                                  A roasted vegetables salad, sure...if served as a salad.

                                                  I guess my question leads to what's the difference btwn a salad and a side dish with salad ingredients?

                                                  1. re: HillJ

                                                    A salad can be a side dish.

                                                    But a side dish is not always a salad.

                                                  2. re: ipsedixit

                                                    Yeah, roasted vegetables go well with raw vegetables.

                                                2. Funny, I just heard this tonight on tv:
                                                  "I don’t think you can call it a salad if it has Funyuns in it!"

                                                  Short of the Funyuns, I can see the potato salad, egg salad, etc. point. I guess salad may be hard to pin down!

                                                  1. Don't exclude chicken salad.
                                                    Or Ron White, AKA tater salad.

                                                    1. It's like pornography...I know it when I see it.... :)

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: sedimental

                                                        That is the problem -- there is a huge great area between official porno and today's movies. Just saying. :)

                                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                          Depends on the country.
                                                          Chap goes to hong kong, and asks for "hot whores".
                                                          The proprietor brings back "spicy horse" (apparently quite tasty).

                                                      2. I have a very broad definition of salad - something that's served cold or room temperature, and involves some sort of dressing over the ingredients.

                                                        So that includes orange, celery, onion and walnut salad dressed with rice vinegar and olive oil, tuna salad with mayo, pasta salad with sesame dressing, snow peas and red pepper, Greek salad, Italian ensalata del mar, and, of course, leafy greens dressed with oil and vinegar. Fruit salad produces it's own dressing from the juices, so it would count.

                                                        I think I would draw the line at something with snickers in it, though, in the same way I wouldn't call diced cake drizzled with chocolate sauce a salad.

                                                        1. I've mulled it over, keep looking at the photos, and I still can't think of the famous snicker/marshmallow/green apple as a salad. And when I was discussing this with my daughter she said it sounded like a deconstructed caramel chocolate apple (like you would buy on a stick at the candy store). I've never heard of this 'recipe' before.

                                                          What I enjoy most about salads is that even a few ingredients in combination can be superb together. Where simple really shines.

                                                          2 Replies
                                                          1. re: HillJ

                                                            <I still can't think of the famous snicker/marshmallow/green apple as a salad.>

                                                            I like to make a minor correction. Sometime, it is made with WhipCream instead of marshmallow -- most likely this won't change your conclusion.

                                                            <What I enjoy most about salads is that even a few ingredients in combination>

                                                            So does Snickers Salad :P

                                                            1. re: HillJ

                                                              I know, IMO the very presence of a candy bar precludes the dish being called "salad." Candied pecans? Getting very close to not-salad...

                                                            2. Wrigley: Uh, I'll just have a, um, salad, please. Um, baby field greens.
                                                              Nero's Waitress: What did you call me?
                                                              Wrigley: Uh, no, I-I... I-I didn't call you anything.
                                                              Nero's Waitress: You want a salad?
                                                              Wrigley: Yeah. Do you... Do you have a, uh, green salad?
                                                              Nero's Waitress: What the fuck color would it be?
                                                              Wrigley: Why are we eating here?
                                                              Nero's Waitress: What's his problem?
                                                              Miles Massey: Just bring him an iceberg lettuce and a mealy tomato wedge smothered with French Dressing.
                                                              Nero's Waitress: And for you?
                                                              Miles Massey: Ham sandwich on stale rye bread. Lots of mayo, easy on the ham.
                                                              Nero's Waitress: Slaw Cup?
                                                              Miles Massey: What the hell.

                                                              1. Good question. Originally, salad or 'sallet' referred to a salted dish, savory if you will, as opposed to a sweet dish. Narrowly, I would define it as a cold, unsweet combination of raw and/or cooked vegetables, possibly with other additions. So potato salad. American or French, yes. But not German if it is served warm---wonderful dish but not a salad. Pasta salad, egg salad, no. Fruit salad? I don't think so. But of course, *you* don't have to define it narrowly.

                                                                1. I read an online definition which pretty much fits the bill for me:

                                                                  "a cold dish of various mixtures of raw or cooked vegetables, usually seasoned with oil, vinegar, or other dressing and sometimes accompanied by meat, fish, or other ingredients"

                                                                  Definitions will differ by nationality and/or culture. For example, I believe north Americans would describe a mix of chicken, mayo, and other flavourings as chicken salad, whereas, in British English, an chicken salad would be a leaf salad to which chicken was added.