As I’ve visited vintage food sites, it’s been interesting to not only see, but to read about what folks were eating back in the day. One of the things I noticed – aside from the shocking number of jello salads in truly weird combinations (hellooo, LOBSTER and jello?!?) – was that ‘French Dressing’ was listed on nearly every menu card. I wondered why it was so popular? I came across several French Dressing recipes on the web, including one that offered such options as Chutney Dressing which, apparently, goes well with tongue salad (I’ll take their word on that), but no explanation for why it seemed to be as commonplace on a well-set early-to-mid-century table as a salt cellar and finger bowls.
Then, I thought about this old book of my mom’s (from school, I think – tho’ her signature on the end paper does not look like that of an eleven year old, which she would have been if she got this copy newly published in 1933) – I knew I had it downstairs in the book stacks somewhere. Thanks to Rich’s most excellent organization effort earlier this year, I found it straight away; AND, it had the answer to the French Dressing question!
French Dressing, it said, is the name given to an uncooked dressing made of oil and vinegar or lemon juice mixed together. It then went on to list a basic recipe and several variations – NONE – I should note – claiming to go especially well with salad of tongue. Yeccch.
I made the basic recipe given, using fresh lemon juice instead of vinegar, and opting for the sugar and 7 drops of Tabasco (I used Chipotle) variation, as well as rubbing the mixing bowl with fresh cut garlic and onion. Nice. I think it enhanced my simple salad of romaine, sun-dried tomato, onion, carrot, chick peas and feta without making it ‘all about the dressing.’ I also REALLY like the fact that there were only seven ingredients, all stuff common to any kitchen, and easily identifiable as a food product. Here’s the basic recipe, followed by the options offered. I’m also including a couple of interesting options from an old Heinz Vinegar ad – all based on French Dressing – tho’ I should note that the Heinz basic French recipe calls for sugar, which is listed as an option in my mom’s book, so take that into consideration if you’re planning a DressingPalooza or something.
BASIC FRENCH DRESSING
•1 tsp salt
•1/2 tsp paprika
•6 tbsp oil
•2 tbsp vinegar or lemon juice
Put all ingredients into a bowl and whisk until well blended. You’ll need to stir again just before serving.
•Rub the mixing bowl with a piece of onion and/or a cut clove of garlic.
•Add 1 tbsp of sugar for a fruit salad dressing.
•Add 1 tbsp of sugar and 7 drops of Tabasco – the book also calls for adding 1 tsp of celery salt, but doesn’t say whether this is in addition to or instead of the 1 tsp salt in the basic recipe.
•Finely chopped mint or parsley (no quantities are given) can be added for a nice flavor, and will tint the dressing a ‘pleasing green.’
Chutney Dressing: Mix in 1/4 cup finely chopped chutney.
Summer Dressing: Use only 1 tbsp of vinegar in the basic dressing, and add 3 tbsp pineapple juice, 3 tbsp orange juice and 1 tsp sugar. Mix well.
Piquant(e) Dressing: Stir in 1/2 tsp brown mustard, 1/8 tsp (?) Worcestershire, 1/2 tsp onion juice and 2 drops of Tabasco
Spinosa Dressing: Add 2 tbsp capers, 1 tbsp chopped stuffed olives and 1 tsp chopped parsley. Mix well.
I think it’s kinda cool how the advertisement offers the base, the variation, and then the best salad to serve it with (tho’ I’m STILL not touching the tongue).