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Wooden salad bowls: Better than glass/ceramic?


vkrn
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Okay, so everyone knows that although I love cooking and have been doing so for a while, I'm still learning how to upgrade my skills.

Anyway, this is a crazy question:

Why do people love using wooden salad bowls? I'd think it'd be more of a pain in the neck from a cleaning and maintenance perspective. My husband believes for some reason that salads TASTE better if tossed in a wooden bowl. Is this merely his imagination? I haven't found that. But with the plethora of wooden salad bowls, I wonder if there's a technical issue out there that I don't know about which makes wooden bowls superior to glass/ceramic/plastic for tossing salads?

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Why do people love using wooden salad bowls?

Well, I have two reasons. First is nostalgic. My wooden bowl belonged to my grandmother, and it just .... "makes me feel good" to use it.

Second, I make a lot of Caesar salads, always making my own dressing. When I add a garlic clove, and smash it around the bowl, the friction from the sides of the bowl help me get the desired consistency. I then remove the garlic from the bowl, and the sides absorb just the right amount for my tastes. I don't like the overpowered commercial dressings where you taste nothing but garlic. None of this would work the same in a glass or stainless bowl.

You can find my recipe, and pictures of exactly what I'm talking about HERE

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wooden salad bowls are great if you like the taste of rancid oil.

my esteemed colleague charlie perry wrote a short piece on it years ago:

From the 1930s through the '60s, Americans were convinced you had to have a certain kind of bowl to make a proper green salad: a plain, unvarnished wooden bowl which could never be washed. The idea was that the wood "cured" over the years, making ever more exquisite salads. Actually, the dressing seeped into the wood and the oil turned hideously rancid, so the bowls stank to high heaven.

A sly foodie named George Rector had simply hoaxed the whole country. He'd invented the myth of the wooden salad bowl to spice up a story in the Sept. 5, 1936, issue of the Saturday Evening Post.

Playing on Americans' fear of snobbish French gourmets, he painted green salad as the most finicky dish of all. And the secret of the perfect salad? Rubbing a clove of garlic on a wooden bowl, which would give just enough garlic flavor but not (horrors!) too much . . . and then never washing the bowl.

The French themselves had never believed any such thing. In fact, Parisian gourmets didn't even like garlic in their salads--as Rector knew perfectly well, since he'd worked in Parisian restaurants. In his cookbooks, he had published garlic-free French salad recipes.

But this myth just pushed all sorts of buttons with Americans. Faced with a haughty French waiter, you could never go wrong ordering salad; by patiently leaving your salad bowl unwashed, you could create a gourmet masterpiece at home. So for a generation, Americans tossed salads in smelly bowls in the faith that they were steadily approaching perfection.

Rector was not a total fraud, though. Way back in the '30s, he was championing steamed vegetables and freshly ground pepper. In fact, his salad article also single-handedly revived the pepper mill. And that's why American restaurants still have the odd habit of offering freshly ground pepper for salad--and not for anything else.

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Ditto:

Only here can one learn such things.

Sr. Parsons, con mis respectos.

Jmahl

The Philip Mahl Community teaching kitchen is now open. Check it out. "Philip Mahl Memorial Kitchen" on Facebook. Website coming soon.

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thanks all, but the props go to the inimitable charlie perry, who wrote the piece.

Sorry, but I love my wooden salad bowl, and use it a lot. I've had it at least 10 years and it smells just fine! I scrub it with soap and water, and dry it immediately. When I first got it, I rubbed it with mineral oil every few times I used it. But that didn't last long. I can't remember when the last time was that it needed oiling. To my eye and palate, a salad should either be plated and served individually, or prepared in the wooden bowl and placed on the table family style...it just doesn't seem right in a glass bowl :smile:

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We had 'em---I hated 'em. I was in charge of all dishwashing during my teen years, and those things had to be scoured with salt, or lemon-and-salt, with no suds EVER. I just always hoped that the acidity of the lemon did the germ trick.

And I love the look of a many-color-green salad, or one with tomatoes and red onion, or with paper-thin Vidalia and orange segments, shining through the clear sides of an unpatterned glass bowl.

Perhaps it was your Mr. Perry who told the anecdote about the chef who was served salad by a host bragging of his own pristinely-preserved unwashed bowl.

Host asked how he liked his salad, and chef replied, "Right off the top, please."

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My husband's mother gave him a really beautiful bamboo salad bowl with the matching

fork/spoon to toss. We've yet to use it......Does anyone have a bamboo bowl? It was

from the Cooking Enthusiast. Would the cleaning technique be the same? The thing

came with no information. I'm still on the fence about using it! a hui hou!

"You can't miss with a ham 'n' egger......"

Ervin D. Williams 9/1/1921 - 6/8/2004

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My husband's mother gave him a really beautiful bamboo salad bowl with the matching

fork/spoon to toss. We've yet to use it......Does anyone have a bamboo bowl? It was

from the Cooking Enthusiast. Would the cleaning technique be the same? The thing

came with no information. I'm still on the fence about using it! a hui hou!

Use it as a fruit bowl.

And no, I don't mean fruit salad ...

One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.

Virginia Woolf

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My husband's mother gave him a really beautiful bamboo salad bowl with the matching

fork/spoon to toss. We've yet to use it......Does anyone have a bamboo bowl? It was

from the Cooking Enthusiast. Would the cleaning technique be the same? The thing

came with no information. I'm still on the fence about using it! a hui hou!

Bamboo is much more dense than wood, so it'll be easier to clean -- it won't absorb as much oil from the salads, and you can scrub it harder. Supposedly, bamboo can go in the dishwasher.

As to care, there is an oil specifically for bamboo, and I've been told that it's not interchangeable with the mineral oil you use on wood boards.

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A sly foodie named George Rector had simply hoaxed the whole country. He'd invented the myth of the wooden salad bowl to spice up a story in the Sept. 5, 1936, issue of the Saturday Evening Post.

Playing on Americans' fear of snobbish French gourmets, he painted green salad as the most finicky dish of all. And the secret of the perfect salad? Rubbing a clove of garlic on a wooden bowl, which would give just enough garlic flavor but not (horrors!) too much . . . and then never washing the bowl.

The idea is older than that. Cassells' Dictionary of Cookery (English book, circa 1870's) says this about garlic:

Garlic requires to be used most judiciously, or it will spoil whatever is cooked with it. If used carefully however, it will impart a most delicious flavour to salads and sauces; but it is so strong that, for many dishes, all that is necessary is to rub the dish with which it is to be sent to table sharply round with a slice of it, or better still, to rub it on a crust of bread, and put the bread in the soup, &C for a few minutes....

Happy Feasting

Janet (a.k.a The Old Foodie)

My Blog "The Old Foodie" gives you a short food history story each weekday day, always with a historic recipe, and sometimes a historic menu.

My email address is: theoldfoodie@fastmail.fm

Anything is bearable if you can make a story out of it. N. Scott Momaday

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  • 12 years later...

I had always thought that the reason salad bowls are made of wood is that as a person eats salad, the fork goes all the way through the lettuce (in a way that does not happen when picking up a piece of meat with a fork) and that the fork would make an unpleasant sound against a ceramic or potter bowl, and/or scratch the bowl.

Has anyone ever heard of this reason?

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