What You Never Wanted To Know Know About Salads in Ancient Rome

They were the biggest things on the planet for over 2000 years. Their influence was so profound that we’re still feeling them. Who were they? The various Romans and conquered folk that made up the Roman Empire. They had far more profound an impact on human beings that just that really weird “Caligula” film with Malcolm McDowell. They brought the western world roads, Christianity, the Latin language and salads.

Did Not Call Them Salads

The word “salad” did not pop up in most of the duration of the Roman Empire. The word salad is Latin, but use of the language lasted in Europe until the 1700s, so the word salad in common languages like Spanish and French did not come up until medieval times. The first instance of “salad” was called “herba salata” during the Roman Empire. The phrase translates to “salted greens.” Historians classify any dish featuring chopped vegetables as a salad, even if the locals did not call it that.

Was Considered Medicinal

Salads were considered medicinal in that they were thought to be easy to digest than other types of food. The Greek Hippocrates (ca. 460 BC – 370 BC), considered the father of modern medicine and namesake of the oath medical school graduates have to take, recommended salads for invalids. He also thought that salads should be served before any other courses in a meal because salads helped clean the digestive out so completely. Hippocrates was greatly revered by the Romans and his advice was followed religiously. Most people still eat salads before their entree today.

Never Used Italian Dressing

Italian dressing is found so commonly today at any place that sells food in North America. However, what North Americans call Italian dressing originated in 1948 at Wishbone Restaurant in Kansas City. The Romans used only salt, vinegar and oil to dress their herba salata. Moderns Italians do the same. They are amused to see products like Hampton Creeks Just Italian Dressings as being labeled “Italian” when it is actually American.

Romaine Lettuce

The favorite green that was salted, vinegared and oiled was a type of lettuce that the Romans called “Cos” because it first was discovered on a Greek island named Cos. We know it today as Romaine lettuce because that lettuce was so associated with the Romans that the name changed.