This section is from the book "The Steward's Handbook And Guide To Party Catering", by Jessup Whitehead. Also available from Amazon: Larousse Gastronomique.
"This specialty, which we owe to American inventiveness, would certainly be attractive amongst cold dishes for the hot weather. Its preparation is as follows: Take a quantity of fresh spring onions, or, if preferred, water-cresses, or mustard and cress, or, indeed, all three, using the onions sparingly if objected to, and construct out of this greenery, in a large deep circular plate or bowl, the nearest semblance of a bird's nest which the cook's ingenuity can arrange. Then place in its midst some hard-boiled eggs, whole, but shelled of course, alternately with some pats or rolls of cream-cheese of the same size and shape as the eggs. Milk-cheese may be used, and is sometimes preferred, whilst it is often easier of manipulation into the proper form than that consisting entirely of cream. In serving this dish, a pat of cream-cheese and an egg, together with a due proportion of salad, should be given to each person, leaving everyone to cut up, dress, and season with oil, vinegar, pepper, and salt, etc., according to taste".
"I am not sorry to find that the finely-shred salad-mixture, in vogue when Louis Napoleon III first gave his feasts at the Louvre, are once more the rage; fine thread-like shaves of lettuce, cucumber, and other salad condiments, whilst tender grape-leaves and tendrils from the winter hot-house forcing for spring-fruits, give a piquancy to the dish".
There is an Italian proverb on salad-making which tells us there must be plenty of oil and salt, but very little vinegar. The same rule is strictly followed in France, and it is a part of every Frenchwoman's education to know how to add these ingredients in their exact proportions. This is so delicate a matter, that it is not usually entrusted to servants in middle-class families. The undressed salad is brought upon the table, and the mistress of the house adds what she thinks is necessary and mixes the whole. True connoisseurs of the vegetable luxury wipe the separated leaves of the lettuce one by one with religious care. They break the foliage for the salad-bowl, never cutting it, and they debate and commingle the component parts of the dressing with anxiety and scrupulous care. A good salad can be concocted, of course, out of fifty ingredients, from nettle-tops and dandelion leaves through cold potato and beetroot to the lettuce and the endive, which are salad plants par excellence. It is in dressing, however, that genius is most exhibited.
Our ancestors served salads with roasted meat, roasted poultry, etc. They had a great many which are now no longer in vogue. They ate leeks, cooked in wood-ashes, and seasoned with salt and honey; borage, mint and parsley, with salt and oil; lettuce, fennel, mint, chervil, parsley and elder-flowers mixed together. They also classed among their salads an agglomeration of feet, heads, cocks' combs, and fowls' livers, cooked and seasoned with parsley, mint, vinegar, pepper and cinnamon. Nettles and the twigs of rosemary formed delicious salads for our forefathers; and to these they sometimes added pickled gherkins.