In the United States it is common to have any salad served before a meal or not at all. Even restaurant waiters will often begin meal orders by asking if patrons would like a soup or salad before their meal. Some reasons have been suggested for this, mainly that having a salad before a meal will keep diners from overeating during the main course. However, in Italy salad is often served after the main dish of a meal. This tradition came about for several reasons.
Cleanse the Palate
One of the main reasons that traditional Italian meals have salads served after a large meal instead of before is to cleanse the palate, or the roof of the mouth. You probably know that after you eat, sometimes the taste of your meal can linger in your mouth for some time afterwards. If your meal is followed by fine wine or a delicate desert, their flavors can be altered by the taste of the previous dish. An excellent way to avoid this is to have a palate cleanser, such as a fresh salad with a light dressing, served between your main course and the dishes and beverages that are served after.
How Does it Help?
How does a salad actually help cleanse your palate and enhance the taste of food eaten after? Salads prepared for after a main dish are usually made with fresh lettuce, and dressed with extra-virgin olive oil and aromatic balsamic vinegar. Other additions or substitutions may include wine vinegar, salt, and even pepper. The lettuce leaves and acidic vinegar refresh not only your mouth, but also your taste buds. This combination helps to erase the leftover taste from dishes, and even beverages, consumed prior. Vinaigrettes are also said to heighten the taste of wines because of their acidity, which can cause a more intense experience of flavor.
Settle Your Stomach
In addition to cleansing your palate after a meal, having a salad after eating is also believed to contribute to healthy digestion. Any olive oil in the dressing used for the salad may aid in your body’s production of peptides. Peptides are elements produced by your body to help in the digestion process. The dressing on an after dinner salad can end up being both healthy and soothing, in addition to preparing your mouth for any flavorful dishes following dinner.
Serving salad after the main course of a meal is an older tradition in Italy, and nowadays it is usually observed at large and formal dinners rather than during everyday meals. Eating a salad after a meal can help digestion, while eating one before a meal may help discourage overeating. No matter when you choose to eat your salad it will still come with health benefits. The most important thing is that you have vegetables regularly.
If you are interested in tasting some Italian cuisine for yourself, visit Italian Garden, located in San Marcos, TX.