With tomatoes beginning to pile up on the counter, I knew I needed to do something about them–and fast! I knew a side salad would be a great fit so I quickly flipped to my old handwritten cookbook, where I long ago copied down recipes I thought I would one day want to prepare for my family. This recipe for fire and ice tomatoes came from my Swedish maternal grandmother, Magel Cummings.
I wish I knew if it were a recipe that came out of a cookbook where she contributed, you know those church and school fundraising cookbooks, or if it was one that my mother had tasted while over at her house one day, and attributed the recipe her way after copying it down. I am going to assume that it is something my mother had received from my grandma or I would have written down the title of the cookbook, I would think. It is hard to say. In the end, it doesn’t really matter. I am just happy to have it.
But what is easy to say about this one is that it requires very little prep, no time consuming sauces, and no ingredients that require traveling outside of my small town to find. You simply chop up the veggies, bring the vinegar mixture to a boil, then toss it over the chopped veggies in the bowl. It must, however, chill completely. This Fire and Ice tomatoes recipe just wouldn’t pack the same sort of punch if it were served at room temperature or only slightly cooled. Plan to make this recipe in the morning to allow the flavors to reach their peak.
We are divided as to how it must have received its name. The oldest believes it must be due to the white of the onions and the red of the tomatoes. My husband thinks it is due to the fire of the taste of onions and the cooling ice of the tomatoes. I, however, think it is because it begins with a boil and ends with chilling. Or perhaps it is due to the “fire” of the cayenne pepper and the cooling factor of the cucumbers? The youngest is on the fence.How did the Fire & Ice Salad receive its name? Our opinions differ. Click To Tweet
The (Short) History of Salads
Would you believe the first salads were seasoned with salt? Kind of seems to defeat the purpose of a salad, don’t you think? But I suppose the Romans (and even ancient Greeks) weren’t all that concerned about their sodium intake. Kidding aside, they did use oil, vinegar, or salt, according to the (affiliate link–clicking it results in a minuscule kick-back for me) The Oxford Companion to Food (Oxford Companions) by Alan Davidson. The latin, salata, meant “salted things,” exactly what a salad was dressed with in those days (and even today).
Dictionary.com wrote that the term “salade” was used in Old French and “salada” in Old Provençal. It originated from the latin word “sal” which meant “salt” and “salar” which meant, as you may have guessed, “seasoned with salt.”
Three hundred years ago, John Evelyn, a scientist and member of the Royal Society in London, authored Acetaria: A Discourse of Sallets, available in full online via Project Gutenberg. ChefTalk author RLaudan shared that he tried to change the popular belief at the time, that salad simply rotted in your stomach and made you sick. You can see why they thought it was something to be avoided. Believing otherwise, Evelyn strove to encourage others that salads should be included in the typical meat and grain diet. He didn’t get very far with it. People held fast to the old ideas. Evelyn, however, was far ahead of his time. Hundreds of years ahead of his time, even.
Pop-Cult Food reveals that it wasn’t until the 1960s when salads began to take hold. It was a time when a real “back to nature” movement occurred–and people made salads a part of many meals, if not the meal itself. Yes, the 1950s saw the wedge of iceburg lettuce drizzled with a thick Thousand Island dressing and the introduction of the Cobb Salad (1940s or 1937 depending on the source), Waldorf Salad (1893), Caesar Salad (1924) and the Chef Salad (also popularized in the 1940s) as well as the Christmas Candle Salad of the 1920s served, as you probably figured out, on Christmas. but the 1960s were really the moment, according (in part) to Pop-Talk, that salads took hold.
Salads kept improving up to through the 1970s and, in my opinion, they just keep getting better today as we are introduced to new ingredients and ways to use them. Don’t believe me? Just scroll through that “Extras” tab at the top and look for previously Featured Indiana Bloggers. There’s plenty of great cooks in the Hoosier state and they are doing very creative things with salads. They definitely aren’t your basic boring green salads anymore.
Back to The Present
With so many options, the bright colors of the Fire and Ice Salad certainly dress up a table. It is a nice side salad that manages to be both sweet and tart at the same time. Since it is made with vinegar, and not mayonnaise, it is suitable for toting along on picnics and pitch-ins without any worry regarding refrigeration. It is, again, best served cold.
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