During Lord Byron’s salad days, well-to-do Englishwoman Maria Eliza Ketelby Rundell published an early recipe for lobster salad in her Domestic Cookery. 2 (“A Lobster Salad. Make a salad, and put some of the red part of the lobster to it, cut. This forms a pretty contrast to the white and green of the vegetables. Serve in a dish, not a bowl.”) English salads of that time were still delightful affairs, using the best and freshest varieties of leafy greens — crispy and tender, mild and peppery — artfully tossed with a nice zippy vinaigrette. So, what the woman-objectifying poet may have been advocating was an irritatingly lovely recipe.
Here’s a gloss from cookbooks of the period:
A platterful of washed and spun mixed fresh local greens — include young spinach and arugula, sorrel, cress, and mustard (wild or tame) with your torn leaf lettuces.
A judicious selection of adjunct materials, chopped or sliced appropriately: cucumber, celery, chive or green onion, young radishes or younger radish sprouts, fennel fronds, purslane sprigs, tender endive, or what you find in the garden or in passing.
The meat of one boiled or steamed local lobster, plus her coral (roe) if available.
MRS. RUNDELL’S DRESSING
• 1 shallot
• 1 large sprig parsley
• pinch salt
• 3 tablespoons wine vinegar
• 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
• 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
• freshly ground black pepper or cayenne to taste
On a cutting board, chop the shallot and parsley together. Introduce the salt and continue to mince until extremely fine. Scrape the mixture into a medium bowl. Whisk in the rest of the ingredients.
Cut the lobster meat in cubes, and toss lightly in the dressing. Correct the seasoning. Arrange exquisitely on the platter with the other salad-furniture. Sprinkle with the roe, crumbled or sliced. (For the most authentic presentation, put the dressing on the bottom, and then artfully arrange everything else, and then toss the whole salad together only after your handiwork has been sufficiently admired.)
Serve instantly, with or without Champagne.
(Byron further exposed his questionable taste by drinking brandy with lobster salad.)