French purists like it traditional
Shallots are a sacrilege. Green beans and potatoes, unacceptable. Meet the defence committee for France’s Salade Nicoise — possibly the world’s most ubiquitous salad dish after Caesar salad — that purists are tired of seeing tossed the “wrong” way.
“When we come back from holidays, we talk about our experiences around France, like the time I was served Salade Nicoise with mayonnaise. I was horrified!” says Renee Graglia, 78, a native of the posh Riviera city where the dish originated. She is president of the Cercle de la Capelina d’Or, a group devoted to teaching, defending and promoting traditional cuisine from the region around Nice."Originally, Salade Nicoise was made only with tomatoes, anchovies and olive oil," says Graglia. A local variation is pan bagnat meaning bathed or wet bread in the Nice dialect Nissard. But a Salade Nicoise with corn? "No! Some even put in lemon and shallots, no, no!" protests Graglia, who belongs to a generation when rules counted, authenticity was sacred and variation could border on the profane. She even takes to task Auguste Escoffier, the legendary chef and culinary writer renowned for modernising French cooking methods. "He wasn’t even a Nicois," she scoffs.
Graglia and her 10 or so sentries has been going strong for 40 years, holding annual cooking competitions and inspecting restaurants to see if they’re worthy of bearing the label “cuisine Nissarde”.