Salad on the Same Plate as Dinner


There are three kinds of people in this world: people who eat salad before dinner, people who eat salad after dinner (aka: the French) and the strangest group of all, people who eat salad on the same plate as dinner.

I grew up in a “salad before dinner” family. On those rare occasions when we’d eat at home, mom would toss together some iceberg lettuce, sliced red onion, and cucumbers with Seven Seasons red wine vinaigrette and serve it up in white bowls. There was a ritual to all this, a sense of structure that echoed the structure we’d find when we went out to dinner. The Olive Garden did it this way. So did T.G.I. Friday’s.

As for salad after dinner, I’ve had a few experiences with this. I suppose it makes sense: after all the heavy stuff, you want something light and grassy to push it all through? (Sorry to be graphic, but I imagine that’s why it’s done. Also why frisse exists, to sweep it all down.)

But I can’t wrap my head around salad on the same plate as dinner. I understand many people grew up eating salad this way, as a side dish rather than as an appetizer, but here’s the thing: salad is cold food. It tastes better served on a cold plate. Dinner is almost always hot food. It would taste better served on a hot plate. Salad is often dressed in a dressing that’s tart from something acidic (lemon juice, vinegar). There are a few occasions where that might complement the entree you’re enjoying (a chicken breast, perhaps) but most of the time, you don’t want dressing mingling with your Fettuccine Alfredo or, as in the picture above, your Chicken Parmesan.

I ate that Chicken Parm at, well, Parm on the Lower East Side. I ordered it as a platter so both things came on the same plate. As a throwback, it was cute, it reminded me of going over a friend’s house growing up and having the mom serve up lasagna and salad side-by-side. It’s how a lot of people experience salad in their lives.

But that red sauce did not make the salad taste better. It was something hot and mushy underneath something cold and crunchy. Inversely, the salad didn’t do much for the Chicken Parmesan. The heat from the chicken wilted a few stray lettuce leaves which lay there sadly on my fork as I cut my way through the cheese and the breading. All in all, this dinner would’ve been better if the chicken had been served on a hot plate and the salad on a cold plate.

Which is why I’m writing this post. It’s not like the most important thing in the world–it’s probably one of the least important things in the world, as a matter of fact–but we’re here talking about food and, well, this is a food-related rant. Salad needs to be served on a separate, preferably cold, plate. Keep it away from your dinner.