The secret of a French Salad - Rhône Girl
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French Salad Dressing in Mustard Jar

The secret of a French Salad

The famous mustard jar for storing household vinaigrette

French life sure knows how to makes the day-to-day difficult. The French I’ve met seem to have c’est compliqué on the tip of their tongue as a throwaway line for many of life’s troubles. Yet the complicated in the day-to-day is an invitation to either complain more or stop doing, surrender and in this case – eat lunch.

Think you’ll run your errands at lunchtime in this country? Think again. That quick dart to the shops to post a letter or purchase flowers for a colleague is impossible because such places close for lunch le dejeuner. In France, you’ll find lunchbreaks are for eating. Shops make no apologies for treating this sacred time with respect.

I’ve never had a lunchbreak less than 45 minutes, eating lunch at your desk? yeh right.

When working the vineyards of Hermitage AOP for Paul Jaboulet Âine, we were discouraged from using our phone at lunchtime. Our boss chef Stéphane would say lunch is for eating mangez le dejeuner. We’d often eat our prepared lunches sitting on a parcel of Le Meal in silence chewing slowly, savouring the flavours and balance in our pre-prepared meal. Whether lunch was purchased from the local supermarket Intermarche or the meal was leftovers made with love French living gives you permission to an opinion on your food. In particular is the food balanced? Is the food too salty? or even too sweet? And then if someone else’s food looks particularly delectable you can also comment on that.  

After the first course is devoured, there’s time to respect the lettuce, which is often eaten as a side after the main. In French, lettuce is called Salade – one of the more confusing words to learn when moving to this country.  

The simplest of salads is a Green one salade verte with eschalot and a delicious vinaigrette. This is the salad Thérèse prepared at her home Maison Tereska in Tain L’Hemitage. What I love about preparing this salad is it comprises of very few ingredients.

French families usually have their own home style vinaigrette. It takes about two minutes, is full of flavour and results in such a tangy, vibrant dressing clinging to the lettuce leaves with one simple step. Don’t pour your dressing onto the salad until just before you eat it.

If you want to try this on your next picnic or vineyard adventure, you’ll simply need a container for the salad and a jar for the vinaigrette (try a washed old glass mustard or jam jar with a tight lid).

And some healthy chaps on the vineyard – probably with a cigarette between their teeth would say to me “beaucoup salade, j’amais malade” Lot’s of lettuce, never sick”. I wonder if the doctor agrees?

Bon Appétit