Book Review: Salads

Salads, by Jane Price

As someone who greatly enjoys eating salads [1], I have found myself reading books about salads, and so far I have not been particularly satisfied.  I have noticed that what I can find somewhat irksome about many cookbooks is especially in evidence when one looks at salads, and this book is a textbook example of processes affecting cookbooks as a whole.  In reading this book I wondered, are they trying to kill me with these salad ingredients, many of which included pork and shellfish, a few of which had octopus, and several of which had mango as a key ingredient.  This book, like many about salads, is not written to those who are fans of salads themselves, but rather seeks to market salads as being somehow particularly sexy as a food, and that means adding exotic ingredients that most people would not put on salads and that those who like salads already may not even feel it necessary to add.  There are, after all, many people who specialize in salads because of dietary limitations regarding meat and other related products, and most of the salads in this book would not meet that kind of standard or limitation, as it does not even meet my own.

After a short introductory section, the salads in this particular book are divided into four categories:  classics, starters, main dishes, and side dishes.  Unsurprisingly, many of the salads I most enjoyed reading about in this book and would be willing to try were the simplest ones:  green salad with lemon vinaigrette, asparagus orange salad, watercress feta, and watermelon salad, warm pasta and sweet potato salad, pepper-crusted salmon salad, Vietnamese chicken salad, bean salad, and so on.  The recipes have high-detail picture and the visual work of the book is up to snuff, but the issues I have with this book are not that dissimilar to the issues that I have with many books of this kind, and they may be summarized in the following ways:  the author of this book is not sensitive to what makes salads appealing for many people who already like them, the recipes are a bit complicated (sometimes overly so) and appear to have complexity for the point of being able to claim some sort of copyright instead of promoting dishes that are tasty and fairly easy to make, and the dishes appear to overuse certain ingredients–unclean meats of various kinds, olives, and mustard–in order to make the salads unique and different, but somehow the same as so many other books.

So, is this book worth your time?  On the positive side, this book will not likely take a long time to read, and that is always a positive.  Additionally, this book will likely contain at least some salads from its diverse recipes and the photography work is generally on-point.  If you like looking at salads and reading about them and are not offended by the odd and sometimes deeply unhealthy ingredients in them, this book will likely be more of a pleasure to you than it was to me.  It is certainly a useful read, not least in the area of how authors seek to promote salads without really understanding what makes salads work for so many people on their own.  One can consider this book and others like it to attempts by marginal and peripheral acts which are popular among hipsters to go mainstream by sprucing up their image.  That is precisely the sort of effort that appears here, a book about salads that does not think that dishes with veggies and cheese and different dressings is nearly sexy enough for mass appeal.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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