We all know how to season our cast-iron skillets, but does the same rule apply for salad bowls?
In the 1930s, George Rector was able to convince the entire United States that having an unwashed wooden salad bowl will improve the taste of their salads. This method is a complete hoax, but people have been practicing this technique for decades.
Who is George Rector?
Before we get to the nitty gritty details of how the whole concept is a hoax, let’s talk about the man behind the myth.
George Rector was a restaurateur who has authored several cookbooks back in the 1920s. He even had his own radio show called Dine with George Rector that was aired through the Columbia Broadcasting System. (Source: The New York Times)
Rector was said to be studying law in Cornell University when his father, who ran several restaurants in New York, pulled him out of school to go to Paris to learn how to make a sauce for a filet of sole. Though there have been reports that this story was wildly fabricated. (Source: The New York Times)
Though there have been many tall tales from Rector’s end. He wasn’t a complete fraud though, he did have some credible facts to share to the public. But at this point, can we really trust him? (Source: LA Times)
How Does an Unwashed Salad Bowl Improve Your Salad?
In September 5, 1936, George Rector published a myth he fabricated on the Saturday Evening Post. He claimed that the secret to a perfect salad was using an unwashed wooden bowl.
The concept was similar to seasoning an iron skillet, but never cleaning a salad bowl is ridiculous. Rector claimed this to be a practice of the French, and yes Americans all over the United States believed him.
He claimed that to make the perfect salad, you must rub a clove of garlic on the bowl to just give it the right amount of garlicky taste. The French themselves had never believed in such a technique. In fact, Parisian gourmands did not like garlic in their salads at all! Of course Rector knew this. He had lived in Paris and worked for several French restaurants over the years. In fact, all his French salad recipes also do not have garlic in them either. (Source: LA Times)
Although oils and salad dressing can seep into the wood of the bowl, this will create a rather nasty smell you wouldn’t even want to deal with. (Source: The Retro Planet)
So the short answer to the question? No, your stinky wooden bowls do not make your salad any better. If anything, it could be a breeding ground for several unwanted bacteria and fungi that you will regret later on. (Source: The Retro Planet)
The Hype Gone Wrong
This story is the perfect example of why we shouldn’t just believe or follow trends. It’s important to use rational or logical thinking especially when it comes to food and things you consume.
Several food writers disputed Rector’s claims and called him out for this fallacy. Nowadays, people still use wooden salad bowls. Let’s just hope that you don’t encounter a rancid one at your next dinner party. (Source: The Retro Planet)