Lettuce typically appeared as part of the vegetables course. On elaborate banqueting menus, special preparations of rare, early season, or out-of-season vegetables were featured as a light course toward the end of dinner, known as entremets de legumes. For example, the 1851 Thousand Dollar Dinner served by Philadelphia restaurateur James Parkinson features “dressed lettuce” as part of the Ninth Course - Pièces Montées and Vegetables. But on contemporary multicourse menus, these courses have been replaced by the salad section, most often some type of tossed salad featuring lettuce.
By the turn of the twentieth century, salads were becoming a more common feature on everyday menus. In fact, in the late 1890s, Philadelphia Cooking School instructor Sarah Tyson Rorer recommended that salad appear “on the table of every well-regulated household 365 times a year. Salad was nature’s lubricant; it purified the blood and cleared the complexion.”
Mrs. Rorer was a well-known Philadelphia cooking instructor from the late 1870s through the early 20th century. After appearing at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, she became a household name and traveled the country to demonstrate cooking techniques to one packed auditorium after another. Many of these events were touted as “pure food fairs” by major food manufacturers as a way of advertising their products and indoctrinating American housewives to the newfangled products meant to make baking and cooking easier, such as baking powder, Baker’s chocolate and canned foods. By promoting and demonstrating their products, these companies also hoped to alleviate concerns about food adulteration scandals that were common at the time, such as cream of tartar cut with rice flour to make it stretch further.
Mrs. Rorer also published books, articles and testimonials to complement her lecture circuit, such as the one from 1914 I recently stumbled across entitled, “How We Serve Hawaiian Canned Pineapple,” produced by the Hawaiian Pineapple Packers’ Association. Along with Mrs. Rorer’s recipes, this little cookbook contained a treasure trove of other dishes from the top cooks of the day, including Fannie Farmer, Christine Terhune Herrick and Janet McKenzie Hill. One of Mrs. Rorer’s recipes was an interesting sounding "Honolulu Salad." Ironically I visited Hawaii recently and was feeling me nostalgic for these beautiful islands and their delicious foods, particularly the ubiquitous fresh pineapple, so I thought it was perfect to try.
It is very simple – just lettuce, pineapple dusted with red pepper and paprika and a homemade mayonnaise dressing. However, since the dressing called for raw egg yolks, I decided to make my own similar dressing with some pineapple juice, plain yogurt, mustard and red pepper.
Here's Mrs. Rorer's original recipe:
Drain one can diced Hawaiian pineapple, and reserve juice for dressing. Squeeze juice from half a lemon over pineapple. Arrange washed lettuce in salad bowl and place pineapple in the center, dust lightly with cayenne, salt and paprika. Serve with following dressing: ¼ cup pineapple juice, ½ cup plain yogurt, 1 tbsp Dijon mustard, 1 tsp sweetener (sugar, honey, agave, stevia, etc), ¼ tsp red pepper. Mix ingredients thoroughly and thin with extra juice or water if needed. Sprinkle with chopped macadamia nuts or cashews if desired. Enjoy!
Sources: "The Philadelphia Chef: Mastering the Art of Philadelphia Cookery" by Emma Seifrit Weigley, The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography; Perfection Salad by Laura Shapiro