When I was growing up, eating out wasn't the common or garden variety activity that it is today. It was an event, and happened either at a friend's house, or at an event like a marriage celebration. And salads were never a big part of the experience. First of all, simple Western-style salads weren't usually on menus - those tended to be items like Caesar salad or Waldorf salad. Secondly they'd be really expensive and since most of us were on a strict budget, we'd slide right past that section and go straight to soup and then main course and dessert.
Anyway I was used to South Indian style kosambris and didn't see the big deal. Until we went over to my friend Leon's place. Leon was one of my classmates at business school in France. He's from South Africa and I and my friends had a great time hanging out with him and his wife Ardela at dinner at our home. So a few weeks later when we decided to go sight-seeing in Paris, we were only too happy to let them host us for lunch. Leon's 14 year old son Rezan had made the salad for us.
Actual bite-sized lettuce leaves tangoed with julienned red and yellow capsicum and halved cherry tomatoes and contrasted with the sharp taste of spring onions cut into slices. The salad dressing of extra virgin olive oil, mustard, caster sugar and vinegar was in perfect harmony with the flavours of the vegetables. And the addition of walnuts set the seal on perfection. That salad was an absolute experience for all of us 'desis' who were having something like it for the first time.
And ever since then, western-style salad has been a family favourite. And I can't thank Leon enough!