salmagundi

“Salmagundi” is a salad plate of chopped meats, anchovies, eggs, and vegetables arranged in rows for contrast and dressed with a salad dressing.

The word is now used mainly to mean a mixture or miscellany but in England it first referred specifically to a dish of chopped meat, vegetables, fruit, leaves, nuts, anchovies, and eggs, garnished with onions, lemon juice, oil and other condiments. One of the earliest recipes appeared in The Good Huswives Treasure, Anonymous, 1588-1660.

The word salmagundi is derived from the French word salmigondis which means disparate assembly of things, ideas or people, forming an incoherent whole.

The dish aims to produce wide range of flavours and colours and textures on a single plate. Often recipes allow the cook to add various ingredients which may be on hand, producing many variations of the dish. Flowers from broom and sweet violet were often used.

The name later evolved to Solomon Gundy in the 1700s. It seems likely that the name is connected with the children’s rhyme, Solomon Grundy, which was first set down by James Orchard Halliwell in 1842. 

“Solomon Grundy,
born on a Monday,
christened on Tuesday,
married on Wednesday,
took ill on Thursday,
worse on Friday,
died on Saturday,
buried on Sunday,
that is the end of Solomon Grundy.”

Solomon Gundy retains its food connotation today as the name given to a spicy Caribbean paste made of mashed, pickled herrings, peppers and onions.

Salmagundi is also purportedly a meal served on pirate ships. It is a stew of anything the cook had on hand. 

The following is taken from a reprint of Mrs. Hill’s New Cook Book, originally published in 1867. “Two calf’s feet; may be fried and used, first removing the bones. Two lemons cut up, fine blades of mace, a stick of cinnamon, pepper (white pepper is best), and salt to taste. Beat to whites of six eggs. Strain. Put into a stew-pan slices of pickled pork, two young, tender chickens—a terrapin, if it is convenient—two or three young squirrels, half a dozen birds or squabs, few sprigs of parsley, half a pound of butter, two tablespoonfuls of flour; good pastry; Irish potato dumplings; pour in the gravy and bake. They are good Christmas pies and will keep several days.”

The name has been used for a movie, a book, a club, and many restaurants. Not surprising, since the word implies good food and lots of it.

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