Today we travel to China in W. Somerset Maugham’s The Painted Veil. Here we will eat a salad. You may have thought this was a nutritious side dish or light main meal. Maybe you’ve heard the caloric horror stories of Caesar Salad, but that is nothing to willingly…perversely eating the fresh greens you’ve been told multiple times to avoid because your husband — hurt by your infidelity — has moved you to a cholera epidemic.
Before any complaining starts, I have read the book and I do know that Walter dies from cholera, though there is a real possibility he became infected through the salad. What is most important to remember is the intent behind that salad. I love this scene. I love all the tension and suspense. How will Walter react? What a turning point for Kitty, taking charge of her life over a salad.
Though the best line has to be “My wife likes it.” Here is Waddington appalled at their behavior and Walter can only give a simple, unsatisfactory answer of she likes it. So what if it kills her she likes it. I picture Waddington desperately trying to keep his jaw from gaping, his eyes from widening. He is still English and a diplomat and though he let his shock escape he must keep his horror silent until he can be on his own to analyze what just happened and why.
Though I have been well-trained in reading a lot into a little no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t figure out just what this salad contained. Is this an anglicized salad or is it Chinese or is it a mix? Kitty is described as being “repulsed” by the Chinese which would imply English salad. However, she loves the view of the land and begins to love the citizens so I think Chinese. Though, she also says that supplies were hard to get and she has just lived in Hong Kong for 2 years so I can’t believe the experience is so very foreign to Kitty. The only real clues are a description of “fresh green salad” and Waddington saying “It’s not nearly so risky as eating a tomato.” That’s it. Green and tomato. So, that’s what I went with. In the end I supposed that this is really a mix of nationalities. According to some superficial internet research tomatoes are from the American continents. Avocado is tropical. Lettuce is Mediterranean. Peanuts are also from South America. Everybody (except the Americas) claim the cucumber. Travel, conquests, and explorers spread these foods early and so where they really belong doesn’t exactly matter. They are loved wherever they go. Which is something Kitty needed to feel.
The dressing was good, but not quite what I was going for, so always, if you choose to risk this meal, feel free to experiment.
Fresh Green Salad
Bunch green leaf lettuce
Cucumber, peeled and sliced
4 splashes Peanut sauce
1 tiny splash rice wine vinegar
1 large splash lime juice
Toss together all ingredients.