What exactly is a salad day? I’ve heard that phrase many times throughout the years and often wondered what it meant, but was too lazy — until now — to research it. Turns out the phrase was coined by Shakespeare in Antony and Cleopatra, written in 1606, when the bard was 42 and well past his salad days. In the play, Cleopatra regrets her youthful dalliances with Julius Caesar, all of which occurred in her “salad days/when I was green in judgment.”
Ok, now I get it. Salad = green = inexperience = a couple wee mistakes along the way. It all makes sense.
But what of the salad itself? We know the ancient Greeks ate mixed greens with salt, vinegar, oil and herbs. So did the Romans. Salad’s enduring popularity continued throughout the centuries, culminating in the debut of the ubiquitous salad bar in the mid-1970s. And while many salad bars (although not all) have since disappeared, the salad remains a star on most restaurants’ menus, albeit bigger, fancier and more filling with every passing year. And that’s a good thing.
If I had to choose my salad days, they wouldn’t be those days when I made so many mistakes in my green youth. Instead, my salad days would be right now, today, sitting on the deck on a hot summer evening, having salad and wine with good friends, most of whom have known me since my bumbling youth and who, unbelievably, still like me anyway.