This article is classified "Partly real, partly fictional"
What has happened to salad these days? Is there anyone else who remembers the plain, old-fashioned, honest salad that graced plates across the nation before the "Greed is Good" decade that was the eighties? Salad without pretence, salad that said "Here I am. Lettuce. Tomato. Cucumber. Beetroot. Raw . Cold. Eat me." Those were the days: days of crisp, pale green lettuce, succulent, full-sized tomatoes that had ripened in the sun , bright purple beetroot fresh from the tin, and cucumbers that unashamedly made you burp. Days of home-made salad-dressing (mayonnaise is of course a foreign word) or, perhaps, vinegar. Days when people weren't sure what French Dressing might be, and, given the record with their kisses and letters, weren't too keen to find out. Salad days indeed. Salad of that sort is now just a memory. Like so many other things, pre-eighties salad was pushed aside by a brash, confident new-comer: Yuppie Salad. Salad as Status Symbol. As is vital for a status symbol, the Yuppie Salad comes in a variety of grades. The primary indicator is the lettuce, or, more accurately, the dominant leafy green stuff (lettuce being too specific a botanical term). Just as no yuppie would drive a boring family car, neither would the yuppie countenance fatally unfashionable pale green lettuce. No. The yuppie eats "Sports Lettuce," in dark green with crinkled spoilers around the edges and, in more extreme cases, dashing purple racing stripes. The suspension tends to be a little less firm too. As a rule, the darker the green, the more crinkled the edges, the limper the leaves - the more expensive the salad. Crisp pale green lettuce is a family wagon with fake wood panels. Salad that appears to have been made from actual thistles is a Porsche. A red one. In fact, there is a simple law of Yuppie Salad: The more you pay for it, the more it looks like weeds. The analogy with the automotive tastes of the yuppie is not perfect. No one has yet bred phallic lettuce . When, as historical precedent says it must, the current "limper is better" trend is reversed and genetic engineering delivers a lengthy lettucy surrogate for latent libido lurking loinwise, it will be the perfect complement to the miniature tomatoes. Indeed one can imagine such a salad being used to great psychological advantage in the Power Lunch situation: a couple of deft flicks with the fork to achieve the appropriate arrangement; eye contact with the intended victim; a quick, but clearly deliberate, glance at his trousers; a fleeting expression of smug contempt; and finally a conclusive and impossible to misinterpret crushing of the little red globes. I should think that the message would be transmitted with unequivocal force and fidelity. His stocks might well not be the only thing to slump alarmingly. Of course, there are Yuppie Salad indicators other than high-fashion lettuce and tiny tomatoes. The pretentious presence of petals lurking yellow and orange amongst the greenery (and possibly purplery) is a sure sign that neither nutritional value nor flavour was the chef's main motivation in determining the composition of the dish. What are they there for? There is rarely enough floral debris to actually determine the flavour, and, when there is, it is rather bitter, and disappointingly like you had imagined flowers might taste. This was the reason you had not been whipping out into the garden with the secateurs at dinner time in the first place. The number of varieties of greenstuff in the Yuppie Salad is often large, and usually directly correlated with the price. This, combined with the presence of stray petals and things that are disturbingly thistle-like , leads to a plausible (and very eighties) theory of the origin of Yuppie Salad. Imagine the Gordon Gecko of market gardeners. "Traditional lettuce cultivation," he muses to himself whilst reading the financial pages, "requires rows of individual plants which must be carefully planted, watered, weeded and harvested. All of this is necessary to produce uniform, crisp, pale green lettuce. Time-consuming. Labour-intensive. Costly. If only people weren't so fastidious about salad greenery." Whilst on the phone to his salad-broker, he ruminates  on this problem. He finalizes the deal to have his clients buy tomatoes from him by number rather than weight, and then the solution hits him. "Market it! Make them want a mish-mash of varieties! Petals a special, a thistle the pinnacle! If car manufacturers can make people think that it's the height of style to drive around in an unreliable, gas-guzzling, giant penis, this will be a breeze." It was. The rest is history. Gardener Gecko sacked his lettuce tenders, tossed  all the salad greenstuff seeds he had into a paddock, and let it go wild. Now he simply mows it when he has orders to meet. How has the simple salad-eater responded? With the usual insecurity. Petals and thistles? Gosh, this must be a *really* posh place. Grass-flavoured? Must be an acquired taste. It must be, mustn't it?  Except of course the beetroot, but barely anyone even knows what a raw beetroot looks like, let alone how it tastes. Perhaps the term "raw," for the purposes of traditional salad, could be defined as "As found in its natural state, i.e. the Supermarket."  As opposed to merely "turned red" in a warehouse with sulphur dioxide (or is it hydrogen sulphide?).  This may explain the popularity of asparagus with the upwardly-mobile.  And which, unfortunately, (as was the case with the petals) taste as you had imagined thistles would.  Bovine pun entirely intentional.  Again, pun tenuous, but intended. (c) Copyright David Squire, 1994. Permission is given for this article to be distributed as part of the Project Galactic Guide archives. It may NOT be distributed in any other form, or published in any newspaper, book, or magazine anywhere without the express permission of the author.