11 Mostly Forgotten Historical Salads (That We Probably Shouldn’t Bring Back)

Perfection Salad via @ladanzarabi on Instagram
Perfection Salad via @ladanzarabi on Instagram

Salad dates back to Roman times, when cold vegetables were seasoned with brine (salata means “salty” in Latin). Variations of the dish were around throughout the Medieval and early modern periods—Queen Mary of Scots reportedly enjoyed a combo of greens, celery root, chervil, truffles, and hard-boiled eggs with creamy mustard dressing—but it wasn’t until the 19th century that the leafy appetizer really took off as a fashionable course to serve. And that’s when folks started to, well, stretch the definition of the word salad, incorporating fruit, noxious weeds, and even popular candy bars. Here are some of history’s most peculiar (and, thankfully, largely forgotten) examples.

1. CELERY VICTOR

Dreamed up by Victor Hirtzler, the head chef at San Francisco’s historic St. Francis Hotel, and published in his 1910 cookbook of the hotel’s menus, this concoction called for lengths of celery to be simmered in chicken or veal stock and then chilled in a tarragon marinade/dressing. Hirtzler also created the Crab Louis, which appears in the same cookbook and was his real salad hit—it was amongst the first salads that could be considered a full meal. But it was his Celery Victor (which featured a veggie best used as an addition or garnish) that was once hailed “an American classic.” If you're up for it, Chowhound has an updated version that adds anchovies to the dressing.

2. DANDELION SALAD

To be fair, this one’s mostly only been forgotten Stateside, but it’s still somewhat current in France and other parts of Europe. The idea’s pretty simple: Go out into the yard and pick some dandelion greens (or buy them at a market, if you must), chop them up , then dress them with olive oil and balsamic. That’s it. The yellow flowers are perfectly edible as well, but it’s the peppery, arugula-esque leaves that seem to draw the salad’s fans in. Sometimes folks will throw a minced shallot or onion in there, or, in Martha Stewart’s case, maybe some garlic scapes.

3. COKE SALAD

The fad of congealed, gelatin-encased salads really exploded in the 1950s, with hundreds if not thousands of variations emerging. But the one of the weirdest jewels in the Jell-O salad crown is arguably Coke Salad. Once popular in the American South as a church or funeral potluck dessert, this sugary confection calls for a mixture of Coca-Cola and pineapple and cherry juices to be used in place of boiling water, to activate the gelatin. The carbonation in the soda sticks around in the finished product, for a very strange take on fruit salad that seems to pop and fizz in your mouth. HuffPo recommends this version, by “John’s Mom,” that also adds the Midwestern favorite cream cheese in the mix.

4. SUNBONNET BABY SALAD

First documented in a 1917 cookbook called A Thousand Ways to Please a Husband, Sunbonnet Baby Salad involves a canned pear half, scooped side down, with a child’s facial features inscribed via cloves, blanched almonds, and strips of pimento, in the style of Mr. Potato Head. The kid’s hair is made of salad dressing, in the flavor and color of your choice. The whole thing is placed on a bed of lettuce, which is supposed to curl up around the pear-baby’s head, à la a sunbonnet, and then a pimento-strip bow is stuck under the chin. As FoodFerret explains in its recipe, “The expressions may be varied.”

5. CORONATION CHICKEN SALAD

When Elizabeth II was crowned in 1953, English food writer Rosemary Hume came up with this spin on a standard mayo-based chicken salad for the new queen’s coronation luncheon. Hume may actually have been inspired by a chicken salad prepared for Elizabeth’s grandpa, George V, for his silver jubilee in 1935: Jubilee Chicken was just cold, cooked, diced chicken with curry spices and mayonnaise, but Hume’s rendition added raisins, apricot purée, and a few other odds and ends. In 2002, the recipe was punched up again for the Queen’s own golden jubilee, with the addition of lime, ginger, and crème fraîche, and once more for her diamond jubilee in 2012, with mango and minced chiles. If you really want to celebrate the Queen's birthdays this year, try The New York Times's recipe—in accordance with the Queen's dietary preferences, it doesn't include garlic.

6. PERFECTION SALAD

In 1904, a Mrs. John E. Cook of New Castle, Pennsylvania, took third place in a recipe contest with this lemony, vinegary take on the molded Jell-O salad, winning a new sewing machine for her entry. Perfection Salad was a homemaking magazine favorite for decades thereafter, in various incarnations. The beauty of this dish seems to be that you can throw just about any of the usual salad suspects in there—cabbage, celery, carrots, olives, whatever week-old produce you find in your fridge—and it still looked (subjectively) attractive, shimmering at you from inside the savory gel. As Saveur mentions in its recipe, Perfection Salad was often served alongside grilled meats or fish; Mrs. Cook herself liked it with fried oysters. The original recipe calls for the molded salad to be diced and served with mayonnaise, “in cases made of red or green peppers.”

7. CANDLE SALAD

In one of the more far-fetched interpretations of the word, this vintage fruit “salad” is just half a banana stuck in a pineapple ring, with a cherry toothpicked to the top. Voila. (If you want to get fancy, some Candle Salads have whipped cream or mayo dribbling down one side, representing a rivulet of melting wax.) Debuting sometime in the 1910s, this is perhaps one of history’s more controversial salads, not only for its, ahem, suggestive appearance, but also owing to the fact that there’s very little intermingling of ingredients. Someone just took three things and placed them near each other to form a shape. It’s not especially clear on how people are supposed to go about eating this either. Candle Salad’s greatest claim to fame is probably being the butt of separate TV segments by Ellen DeGeneres and Amy Sedaris, but if you really want to make it, Cooks.com will walk you through the process.

8. CHEESE SLAW

The outback town of Broken Hill, in the Australian state of New South Wales, is generally cited as the birthplace of this altered translation of coleslaw, although some say the recipe first appeared in a 1939 newspaper in Townsville, nearby in Queensland. Broken Hill’s residents will push back against anyone who says so, though, claiming that the Townsville recipe of the same name was, in fact, totally different and that BH is the home of legit cheese slaw, full stop. It’s true that the recipes vary, but the common denominators seem to be that you take some coleslaw and swap out the cabbage for cheese, usually blue, and that carrots need to make an appearance. Folks down under use it for everything from a hot dog topping to the innards of a grilled cheese sandwich.

9. SNICKERS BAR SALAD

What won’t the Midwest turn into a salad? Once a staple of potlucks in Iowa and the like, this alleged salad is technically more of a pudding, or maybe an advanced cake frosting. The main ingredient is either whipped cream or Cool Whip, into which broken-up Snickers bars and marshmallow cream or mini-marshmallows are added. The occasional inclusion of Granny Smith apples seem to be the only thing that might bump it up to fruit salad status, and they aren’t even required. The assembly process is pretty self explanatory, but Cooks.com has your back if you need it spelled out.

10. SEAFOAM SALAD

Initially exclusive to Woolworth lunch counters, seafoam salad’s popularity surged in the early 20th century, as the retailer’s stores proliferated in number and the dessert spread to cafeterias and buffets across America. In the classic, cream cheese, canned pears, and maraschino cherries were suspended in lime Jell-O and capped with whipped cream. Orange Jell-O was sometimes subbed for lime, even though that made it decidedly not seafoam-esque. Mayo and nuts both made appearances in some versions, but AllRecipes breaks down the most basic recipe for your retro summer dinner parties.

11. FROG-EYE SALAD

This one’s not been completely forgotten yet, but it’s rarely found outside of the Mormon Corridor (i.e., Utah, western Wyoming, and eastern Idaho). Here, acini di pepe (“grains of pepper”) pasta, which is similar to couscous and represents the eponymous frog’s eyes, are combined with Cool Whip and, somewhat bizarrely, beaten eggs cooked with pineapple juice. Food.com has the full 30-minute recipe, which includes some canned fruit and marshmallows. Frog-eye salad is particularly special in that it seems to be one of the only conflations of pasta salad and dessert salad around, so it presumably works as both an appetizer and nightcap.

14 Secrets of McDonald's Employees

Justin Sullivan, Getty Images
Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

While there’s virtually no end to the number of fast food options for people seeking a quick meal, none have entered the public consciousness quite like McDonald’s. Originally a barbecue shop with a limited menu when it was founded by brothers Richard and Maurice McDonald in the 1940s, the Golden Arches have grown into a franchised behemoth with more than 36,000 locations worldwide.

Staffing those busy kitchens and registers are nearly 2 million McDonald's employees. To get a better idea of what many consider to be the most popular entry-level job in the nation—staff members on the floor make an average of $9 an hour—we asked several workers to share details of their experiences with errant ice cream machines, drive-through protocols, and special requests. Here’s what they had to say about life behind the counter.

1. McDonald's employees can't always deliver fast food all that fast.

While McDonald’s and other fast-service restaurants pride themselves on getting customers on their way, some menu items just don’t lend themselves to record service times. According to Bob, an assistant store manager at a McDonald’s in the Midwest, pies take an average of 10 to 12 minutes to prepare; grilled chicken, 10 minutes; and biscuits for Egg McMuffins, eight to 10 minutes. In the mood for something light, like a grilled chicken and salad? That will take a few minutes, too. Bob says salads are pre-made with lettuce but still need to have chicken and other ingredients added.

The labor-intensive nature of assembling ingredients is part of why the chain has more recently shied away from menu items with too many ingredients. “We are trained to go as fast down the line as we can, and if we have to stop to make something that has 10 ingredients, it tends to slow things down,” Bob tells Mental Floss. “Corporate has realized this and has taken many of these items off in recent years, [like] McWraps, Clubhouse, more recently the Smokehouse and mushroom and Swiss and moved to items that can go a lot quicker.”

2. McDonald's workers wish you’d stop asking for fries without salt.

A serving of McDonald's French fries is pictured
Joerg Koch, AFP/Getty Images

A common “trick” for customers seeking fresh fries is to ask for them without salt. The idea is that fries that have been under a heating lamp will already be salted and that the employee in the kitchen will need to put down a new batch in the fryer. This does work, but customers can also just ask for fresh fries. It’s less of a hassle and may even save employees some discomfort.

“People can ask for fresh fries and it's actually way easier to do fresh fries rather than no-salt fries,” Andy, an employee who’s worked at three different McDonald’s locations in the Midwest, tells Mental Floss. “For those, we have to pour the fries onto a tray from the fryer so they don't come in contact with salt. It can get awkward sometimes getting everything into position, especially if you have a lot of people working in close proximity and it's busy, so I've had some scalded hands a couple of times trying to get fries out in a timely way.”

3. McDonald's workers have to pay careful attention to the order of ingredients.

McDonald’s is pretty specific about how their burgers and other items are supposed to be assembled, with layers—meat, cheese, sauce—arranged in a specific order. If they mess it up, customers can notice. “In some cases it has a big impact,” Sam, a department manager and nine-year veteran of the restaurant in Canada, tells Mental Floss. “Like placing the cheese between the patties with a McDouble. If they don’t put the cheese between the patties, the cheese won’t melt.”

4. There’s a reason McDonald’s employees ask you to park at the drive-through.

A McDonald's customer pulls up to the drive-thru window
Tim Boyle, Getty Images

After ordering at the drive-through window, you may be slightly puzzled when a cashier asks you to pull into one of the designated parking spots. That’s because employees are measured on how quickly they process cars at the drive-through. If your order is taking a long time to prepare, they’ll take you out of the queue to keep the line moving. “My store has sensors in the drive-through that actually tell us exactly how long you are at each spot in the drive-through,” Bob says. “We get measured based on something we call OEPE. Order end, present end. [That measures] from the second that your tires move from the speaker until your back tires pass over the sensor on the present window. My store is expected to be under two minutes.” If an order will take longer than that, you'll be asked to park.

5. The McDonald's drive-through employees can hear everything going on in your car.

While the quality of the speakers at a drive-through window can vary, it’s best to assume employees inside the restaurant can hear everything happening in your car even before you place an order. “The speaker is activated by the metal in the car, so as soon as you drive up, the speaker turns on in our headset,” Andy says. “We can hear everything, and I do mean everything. Loud music, yelling at your kids to shut up, etc.”

6. The employees at McDonald’s like their regulars.

Customers eat inside of a McDonald's with an order of French fries in the foreground
Chris Hondros, Getty Images

With hot coffee, plenty of tables, Wi-Fi, and newspapers, McDonald’s can wind up being a popular hang-out for repeat customers. “[We have] a ton of regulars who come into my store,” Bob says. “I'd say at least 75 percent of my daily customers know us all by name and we know them all, too. It makes it nice and makes the service feel a lot more personal when a customer can walk into my location, and we can look them in the eye and say, ‘Hey Mark! Getting the usual today?’ and we've already started making his coffee exactly how he takes it.”

7. McDonald’s staff get prank calls.

Unless they’re trying to cater an event, customers usually don’t have any reason to phone a McDonald’s. When the phone rings, employees brace themselves. In addition to sometimes being asked a legitimate question like when the store closes, Sam says his store gets a lot of prank calls. “Sometimes it’s people asking about directions to Wendy’s,” he says. “A lot of inappropriate ones. Most are pretty lame.”

8. For a McDonald’s worker, the ice cream machine is like automated stress.

A McDonald's customer is handed an ice cream cone at the drive-thru window
iStock/jax10289

The internet is full of stories of frustrated McDonald’s customers who believe the chain’s ice cream machines are always inoperable. That’s not entirely true, but the machine does experience a lot of downtime. According to Bob, that’s because it’s always in need of maintenance. “The thing is, it is a very sensitive machine,” he says. “It's not made to be making 50 cones in a row, or 10 shakes at a time. It takes time for the mix to freeze to a proper consistency. It also requires a daily heat mode, [where] the whole machine heats up to about 130 degrees or so. The heat mode typically takes about four hours to complete, so you try to schedule it during the slowest time.” Stores also need to take the machine entirely apart every one to two weeks to clean it thoroughly.

Bob adds that the machine’s O-rings can crack or tear, rendering the unit inoperable. Seasoned workers can tell if a unit is faulty by the consistency of the shakes or ice cream coming out, and sometimes by the noises it makes.

9. McDonald's employees don't mind if you order a grilled cheese.

Contrary to rumor, there’s no “secret menu” at McDonald’s. But that doesn’t mean you can’t sometimes snag something not listed on the board. Andy says a lot of people order a grilled cheese sandwich. “I've made many a grilled cheese before,” he says. But it’s not without consequences. “Sometimes it can get a bit risky doing it because the bun toaster wasn't designed to make grilled cheeses so sometimes you get some burnt buns or cheese or the cheese sticks inside and it slows down the other buns from getting out on time so that causes more burnt buns.”

Another common request is for customers to ask for a McDouble dressed as a Big Mac, with added Big Mac sauce and shredded lettuce. “I think [it’s] a way more practical way to eat a Big Mac since there's less bun in the way, and it's also way cheaper even if you do get charged for Mac sauce.”

10. McDonald’s workers recommend always checking your order.

A McDonald's employee serves an order
Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

Nothing stings worse than the revelation that an employee has forgotten part of your food order. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not because the employees are being lazy or inattentive. According to Bob, it’s simply due to the volume of customers a typical location has to process in a given day. “We are human,” he says. “Mistakes do happen. We always feel terrible when they do but when we serve 1000-plus people a day, it's bound to happen.”

Bob recommends checking your bag before leaving the restaurant and not taking it personally if there’s an issue. “Be nice to us if you have a problem,” he says. “It's a huge difference between coming to us and saying, ‘Hey, I seem to be missing a fry from my bag,’ and ‘You bastards didn't give me my fries!’” If you want to check your bag at the drive-through, though, he recommends trying to pull ahead so cars behind you can move forward.

11. McDonald's employees don't recommend the grilled chicken.

If a menu item isn’t all that popular, it can wind up experiencing a low rate of turnover. Of all the food at McDonald’s, the most neglected might be the grilled chicken. Because it doesn't move quickly, workers find that it can turn unappetizing in a hurry. “That stuff has a supposed shelf life of 60 minutes in the heated cabinet, but it dries out so quickly that even if it's within an acceptable time frame, it looks like burnt rubber, and probably tastes like it, too,” Andy says.

12. Golden Arches employees aren’t crazy about Happy Meal collectors.

A McDonald's Happy Meal is pictured
David Morris, Getty Images

Happy Meals are boxed combos that come with a toy inside. Usually, it’s tied into some kind of movie promotion. That means both Happy Meal collectors and fans of a given entertainment property can swarm stores looking for the product. “The biggest pain involving the Happy Meals is the people who collect them,” Bob says. “I personally hate trying to dig through the toys looking for one specific one. We usually only have one to three toys on hand. It's especially a pain in the butt during big toys events such as the Avengers one we just had. There was like 26 different toys, and some customers get really mad when you don't have the one that they want.”

And no, employees don’t usually take home leftover toys. They’ve saved for future use as a substitute in case a location runs out of toys for their current promotion.

13. McDonald's employees can’t mess with Monopoly.

The McDonald’s Monopoly promotion has been a perennial success for the chain, with game pieces affixed to drink cups and fry containers. But if you think employees spend their spare time peeling the pieces off cups looking for prizes, think again. Following a widely-publicized scandal in 2000 that saw an employee of the company that printed the pieces intercepting them for his own gain, the chain has pretty strict rules about the promotion. “Monopoly pieces and things like them get sent back to corporate,” Bob says. “We aren't allowed to touch them, open them, or redeem them as employees.”

14. One McDonald's worker admits there have been sign mishaps.

A McDonald's sign is pictured
Tim Boyle, Getty Images

Many McDonald’s locations sport signs under the arches advertising specials or promotions. Some are analog, with letters that need to be mounted and replaced. Others have LED screens. Either way, there can be mistakes. “I've never seen anyone mess around with the letters,” Andy says. “But I do remember one time we were serving the Angus Burgers and the ‘G’ fell off of the word ‘Angus.’ Good times.”

The Reason Why It's Technically Against State Rules to Sell LaCroix in Massachusetts

Justin Sullivan, Getty Images
Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

No one is quite certain what goes into LaCroix (“La-croy”), the carbonated water that’s become a popular alternative to soft drinks. The zero-calorie beverage comes in several distinctive fruit flavors that the drink’s parent company, National Beverage, has described as being derived from “natural essence oils.” That highly secretive process is believed to be the result of heating fruits and vegetables, then making a concentrate out of the vapor.

To try and crack the mystery, Consumer Reports recently approached officials in Massachusetts with a public records request for documentation relating to LaCroix. Massachusetts is one of the few states requiring manufacturers of carbonated water to obtain a permit and submit water quality tests to sell their product.

The verdict? Consumer Reports still isn’t quite sure what goes into LaCroix. But it might be technically against state regulations to sell it in Massachusetts. That’s because the state has no records on file for the mystery refreshment.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health could not find a permit for LaCroix, and there were no water quality test results on hand, either. Without those documents, the drink should technically not be for sale in the state. After noticing the oversight, Massachusetts sent a request to National Beverage for the necessary information. If the company fails to comply, the state could end up fining them or banning the sale of the drink. A spokesperson for National Beverage told Consumer Reports the company intended to comply with the request.

Why does the state need any information at all? Thanks to some bureaucratic quibbling, carbonated water products are treated differently than bottled water by regulatory agencies. The Food and Drug Administration considers carbonated beverages like seltzer and flavored sparkling water to fall under the heading of soft drinks. While the FDA mandates certain manufacturing standards for those drinks, it doesn’t apply the same rules as it does for bottled water, which is expected to adhere to strict rules about contaminants and quality testing. That leaves certain states like Massachusetts to conduct their own quality assessments.

There’s no guarantee that such testing will divulge LaCroix’s secret to their flavoring process, which is likely to remain a mystery.

[h/t Food & Wine]

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