Raconter des salades


Lies, lies, lies. Half truths, tall tales and outright fibs. Every time you turn around these days it seems a new one is revealed, from Russian hijinks to politicians (not) paying their taxes.

The French language is filled with colourful expressions and ‘raconter des salades’ is a delightful example. Why one would tell salad tales to spin a yarn is not immediately obvious. Yet by gathering different ingredients and marinating them in a sauce, seasoning them with half-truths and jokes and then serving them up as fresh and healthy…it begins to make sense.

When you think about the meaning of the word ‘salade’ it becomes even clearer. Whereas in English a salad is a dish, in French it is also a lettuce or any of the various leaves that compose such dishes. What duplicity!

‘Salade’ the leaves are many indeed. Growing up in Canada in the ice age of the 1960s, iceberg was the only lettuce we knew. Along came the 70s and we discovered romaine (Hail, Caesar!) and in the 80s the advent of the spinach salad. (Raw spinach? In a salad!?!)

Arriving in France I was amazed by the number and varieties of lettuce and other leaves that people ate raw or dressed with different types of vinaigrette. From mesclun to watercress, frisée to lola rossa…the sheer variety was extraordinary. This image gives you an idea. (How did I never realize that dandelions are literally dents-de-lion, lion’s teeth?)raconter-une-salade

Perhaps most amazingly, there were salads served in restaurants that contained few or no leaves at all: salade de crudités with a variety of raw veg; salade Niçoise, with green beans, potatoes and tuna; salade Grecque with its chunks of feta, tomato and olives. When we moved to Lyon I discovered the salade Lyonnaise with its lovely runny egg and smoky lardons. The frisée lettuce served with this one can make it challenging to consume politely, without splattering vinaigrette or wending one’s knife.

I love salads, and not just because they are good for you. There are lemony carottes rapées (that’s grated, not raped because, let’s face it, if anyone is going to do the raping it is the carrot) and betterave (Better ‘ave ‘em? Beets me!) with lovely mâche and walnuts. As I shared in a previous post, the secret is in la sauce vinaigrette.

Pardon my use of so many silly puns, but is that not in keeping with the telling of salads?

What’s your favourite kind of salad?

43 thoughts on “Raconter des salades

  1. In the name of my Sgt. Carrots Lonely Hearts Club I have to raise a protest against the slanderous accusation laid above towards my innocent carrots mates ! (well, most of them at least) .
    Yes une salade has several meanings . 1) All kinds of “lettuces”, keeping in mind that “une laitue” is only one sort of “les salades” and as you noted there are plenty of them .
    2) A cold appetizer dish including mostly vegetables or fruits ( ever heard of “salade de fruits” ?) which can also iclude cheese ( for instance the popular among ladies “salade de chèvre chaud” in which “chèvre” means “fromage de chèvre”), and which can also include meat : here in the South-West we commonly eat “une salade de gésiers” for instance . But the wild Barbarians from the mountains probably never heard of this civilized meal .

    My favourite salade is roots of dandelions :smile:. In France “manger les pissenlits par la racine” is a universal trend . I let you find out that one but I think your tribe says something about daisies in this case .
    To make myself forgiven I offer you a melodic salade de fruits every French knows . The singer is not great but I developed a wholehearted love and admiration for the man and the comedian he was .

    1. I think your love of word play rivals my own, Phil, but I certainly hope you’re not going to be pushing up daisies any time soon! Thanks for the clip – it is as fresh and sweet as the day it was recorded, just as a fruit salad should be!

  2. Despite one of my brother in laws proclaiming that ‘you don’t make friends with salad.’ I state here, that I too love salad. The idea of spinning a tale is also connected to ‘spinning salad’, when you use a salad spinner to properly dry the leaves before dressing. Lately I have been re-enjoying good old iceberg and cos and loving the crunch they have to offer. Your puns gave me a right old chuckle.

    1. Funny, like your brother-in-law, a lot of people seem to approach salads like bad-tasting medicine: good for you but not much fun. They don’t know what they’re missing! My late mother in law loved the very crunchy ribs of salads like frisées and escarole, not so different from the humble iceberg. It is certainly refreshing. So glad you enjoyed my punny post. 🙂

  3. When I first arrived in France and high-tailed it to the market because it would be rude not to, I je voudrais-ed un laitue to be greeted with that look that became oh so familiar – you know the cross between alarm and shrugging confirmation of the recipients undoubted stupidity for it was not a lettuce that I was pointing at but a feuille de chêne – how foolish of me … it’s green and you eat it raw with dressing – it’s forgive me, I thought that was a lettuce! I too adore les salades be they the leafy delights that are part of the dish or the dish itself with or without leafy delights. My favourites are far too numerous to clog your comments with but I can report that I am not with Phil above in a love of Duck Gizzards – something for which, in Cantal also, I have to be decorously quiet about for this too earns the aforementioned startled look from my French friends … 👀

      1. Love it when my blogging buddies share the love! I don’t know why you can’t ‘like’ comment from within the post, but you can if you select them from the top bar as a drop-down from the little bell. Also, you can ‘like’ them from the iPhone app….mysteries of WordPress!

    1. Ha, ha….I know that look well. It is somewhere between the pain of indigestion and outright disapproval. So glad you did not let it put you off! As for ‘les gésiers’, I don’t mind them although I don’t run after them either. It is nice to have something to sink your teeth into among the greens. I think what I love most about salads are the endless possibilities!

  4. First of all, what does it mean that dandelion comes from dents de lion, yet in French it’s called pissenlit (wet the bed)? I looked it up and it seems to stem (haha) from the plant’s diuretic qualities.
    In Brussels, there’s a restaurant called “Raconte-moi des salades,” which indeed serves salads. They and many other restaurants were fond of frisée, which as a salad lover I find a waste of time (all aesthetics on the plate, impossible to get onto a fork, and just meh). And generally restaurants don’t go much for other raw vegetables, but are too happy to cover the couple of wilted green leaves with gizzards, bacon, ham, cheese, duck breast or chicken. Vegetarians beware.
    The other thing is the custom of “fatiguer la salade”–dressing it a couple of hours early so that the vinegar makes the leaves wilt and lose their crunch. Cruel!

    1. Actually, I didn’t know the name comes from the fact that they have diuretic properties. But the leaves of the plant and also salad greens are jagged, and I guess that’s where the lion’s teeth come in. As for frisée, I can take it or ‘leaf’ it (we are all on a roll today!). I do like the spiciness of some roquette and the buttery quality of certain lamb’s lettuce. But I had never heard of intentionally wilting the salad. That do beat all!

  5. There is a “salade” I’ve loved since I was a toddler, it’s the watercress . I love its taste and it is free, it grows on brooks, meres, lakes . Its only bad point in my eyes is that it is powerfully healthy, healthier than nearly all plants . Too bad, it’s the kind of things I conscientiously avoid, as well as good examples .

    1. That is very interesting and those are some impressive health benefits. I will definitely up my consumption of watercress as, unlike you, I do not morally object to it being good for me. 😉

  6. I too likely, but not the gizzardy ones.
    Trev will not eat a salad that does not contain meat or fish of some kind. He is a complete Francophile in his eating habits.

    Goats cheese my favourite

    1. I love goat’s cheese (especially chevre chaud) although I know a few non-French friends who find the smell too pungent. Not a problem for me. I just avoid the thick rinds on cheeses like reblochon despite the fact that my French family thinks it is 100% edible.

  7. Snigger. Carrots outed at last. Nice ones MEL.
    The first time I ever had garlic was in Paris, on a school trip and it was in a salad – I remember how strong it tasted – they had merely wiped the oiled bowl containing the lettuce with a cut clove but, boy, did it feel strong to a garlic virgin. Now I use it in a lots of what I cook – but never raw, it’s too much of a returner.
    Remember when raw mushrooms started appearing in salads? Never did get used to those.
    I’ve recently been making a starter salad of mango and watercress (or rocket) with some less tasty leaves for balance, plus toasted sunflower seeds with a light mustardy dressing. Damn, now I’m feeling hungry …

    1. That mango-cress salad sounds a treat – I’m going to think of that next time I’m looking for salad inspiration. Garlic virgin? Lol. The carrots are outraged! 😉 My father-in-law always removes the inner bit of the garlic as he says that is what makes it too strong, whether eaten raw or cooked. Have you tried this?

      1. Yes exactly . All people who like food and cooking always remove the unpleasant heart of garlic before using it, I always saw that,that makes a tremendous difference !
        And yes for sure pissenlit was “pisse en lit” when its diuretic qualities were recognized . Angevine provinces chose the look,”dent de lion” and other parts of France chose the effect in the body . .

      2. Yes I read about that and if it looks at all green do remove it but otherwise am always in a hurry and can’t be bothered! Last night tried freshly cooked beetroot with orange chunks, rocket and an olive oil/balsamic vinegar plus touch of English mustard dressing. Yum. Thanks for making me think salad in February!

  8. I also eat all kind of salads and I did raped carrots once. I was taking an intensive English course and one of our teacher organized a dinner with a few of us and we had to talk about what we had done in the kitchen. I had made a carrot cake and when I was explaining how it was done I couldn’t think of the word grated and literally translated “raper” by raped. The teacher who also spoke French knew exactly the mistake I had made and quickly corrected me…I have never made that mistake again. Nice post…(Suzanne)

      1. Glad my embarrassment could make you feel less alone…I think we all make this type of mistakes when learning a second language. Actually, I think it is when you stopped being concerned about blundering that you start becoming fluent…

  9. Delicious post! My favourite salad is a meal in itself – a dressing made with lemon juice, garlic, oil and mayonaise in which are marinated cubes of greek feta, cubes of granny smith apples, circles of salad onions, and Kalamata olives. After an hour or two, the marinated goodies are gently tossed with two or three types of lettuce for mouth feel, and garnished with crisp crumbs of fried bacon and halves of hard boiled egg. Add a nice bread and an even nicer wine and away you go!

  10. Far and away the best post about salad I’ve ever read. And that phrase, ‘raconteur des salades’ is a beauty. I will try and slip it into conversation. And yes, beware those carrots!

    1. Interesting — I have never tried a Laotian Larb but I googled it and it looks delicious. As for potatoes salad, Iove it with green beans, lots of red onions and with a lemony olive oil dressing. Thanks for commenting!

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