Day 88 French Salad Dressing

I noticed yesterday that I had dandelions in my lawn. They are not blooming yet which is good news as I can use the greens for my first spring salad. I selected Meda Oberlander’s recipe for French Salad Dressing from the 1906 Berlin Cook Book to try with my dandelion greens.

Dandelion greens will soon be available at the Kitchener Market and on a pesticide free lawn near you. Locally, hot bacon dressing is a favourite with these free greens. The assumption has often been that oils like olive oil were not easy to come by 100 years ago. However, olive oil was available in grocery stores in Berlin and elsewhere for many years.  The Grocers’ Hand-Book published in Philadelphia in 1882 states “The liquid vegetable oils are very numerous; first, in rank, from a commercial point, is olive oil” and later states “The high price of the best qualities makes adulteration very tempting.” Other oils such as cotton-seed oil were added to olive oil or sold as if it was olive oil. Other oils available were rape oil which was obtained from the seeds of turnip, radish and rape (now known as canola).

I measured 3 tablespoons of pure olive oil into a little bowl. I added 1 tablespoon of white vinegar. Then I shook in a little regular salt and cayenne pepper. I stirred and poured on the rinsed and dried dandelion greens.

Meda Oberlander, Syracuse, N.Y. contributed other recipes to the cook book. She was the sister of a Lutheran minister. Check out Day 41 and the reader comments for some more information about Miss Oberlander and her brother who was the pastor of St. Peter’s Evangelical Lutheran Church. The religious life of Berlin was very diverse. According to the commemorative cityhood book published in 1912, other Berlin churches were Church of the New Jerusalem (Swedenborgian), Benton St. German Baptist, St. John’s Anglican, Grace Congregational, St. Matthew’s Lutheran, East End Mennonite, King Street Baptist, St. Andrews’ Presbyterian, St. Paul’s Lutheran, United Brethren, Zion Evangelical, St. Mary’s Roman Catholic, Trinity Methodist, Christian Science and Bethany Mennonite. Although this book doesn’t report it there was a Jewish congregation in Berlin. The Beth Jacob synagogue formed in 1907, and still exists, as do most of the churches mentioned above.

It is a little cold today to really appreciate the fresh taste of dandelion greens but the slightly bitter flavour goes very well with this simple salad dressing. I rarely make my own dressing despite how easy they are to prepare. I find it difficult to balance the oil and acid to get a pleasing flavour. However, the zip of cayenne pepper is a nice addition to an oil and vinegar dressing. I will certainly make Meda Oberlander’s French Salad Dressing again. I liked the proportions in this dressing and it was so easy to make. I now want to try it on a variety of different greens.

Proportions, 3 tablespoons of pure olive oil to one of vinegar or lemon juice, cayenne pepper and salt to taste.

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