Thursday, September 4, 2008

Salad Days

By Kodiak in Cambridge

Blazing through the blogosphere like a pack of wild mustangs saddled by the Jonas Brothers comes this food-related post on the heels of the controversial ginger-root spot. After seeing, firsthand, the unbridled success of all things food related posted on the Ak360, I shall throw my hat into the culinary ring.

And now, my friends, comes the history of chicken salad, America's third most popular (educated guess) mayonnaise-infused combination of ingredients. Obviously, tuna salad is first with potato salad in second, chicken salad, takes the bronze with macaroni salad just off the metal stand in fourth place.

As the legend goes, in 1863, in the throes of the war of Northern Aggression, along the picturesque coastline of Rhode Island, a man by the name of Liam Gray was faced with a conundrum. As the owner of Town Meats in Wakefield, Mr. Gray needed a way to use up his leftover chicken meat. He put the poultry in a bowl and mixed in eggs, oil, tarragon and small grapes. The result was so overwhelmingly popular the business converted to a deli that operates to this day. I know this is true because the Internet told me so. Many historians credit this invention with ending the Civil War and sparking the Industrial Revolution, however that view is still debated at many southern universities.

The first published recipe for chicken salad came from the pages of the 1894 edition of Recipes Tried and True, a cookbook from an Ohio Presbyterian church. It feeds 200 and combines 30 chickens with a lot of celery, gallons of vinegar, an ocean of mustard and dozens of hard boiled eggs. Next time you're having a picnic make sure an allow a couple weeks of prep time.

Poor old Liam never received the kudos he deserved for adding grapes, as it is commonly believed to be a modern addition known to industry insiders as Queen Elizabeth's Chicken Salad. Clearly this is a vast conspiracy perpetrated by the left wing liberal media, most notably NBC's Tom Brokaw.

So the next time you're at the deli and there's a long wait and you know that a steak and cheese will take forever, don't feel bad you settled for chicken salad because, chances are, it will be pretty good. Maybe you like it with some walnuts or crushed potato chips, either way, you're making Liam Gray proud.

Like Eli Whitney, J.P. Morgan, Thomas Edison, and Howard Hughes, Mr. Gray was a true American innovator. Plus what would oil, electrical current, commercial flight and cotton ginning be without chicken salad? Not much if you ask me, not much at all.

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