Adriel and I were visiting Campagne Cafe in Seattle at the recommendation of a friend & got to talking about salads when Adriel ordered one. We ended up talking about how salads are referred to as ‘rabbit food’ by people in the US sometimes, and I thought it was interesting as the Dutch will call it ‘konijnenvoer’. The two of us being huge etymology fans, but the etymology here seemed obvious (did you know the English word “rabbit” also comes from Middle Dutch robbe?) – what caught us this time is that the term is usually used in a negative way, while salads are generally a healthy and good thing to eat.
The solution is obvious: since salads are a generally healthy and often low-calorie thing to eat, it triggers the holier-than-thou backlash in people who are not eating a healthy salad. The same effect exists when it comes to vegetarians, people on a diet eating small portions, and people that don’t drink. The salad one is extra devious when it comes to traditional and outdated gender expectations: it’s most commonly employed by men, and societal expectations nudges women to put more effort into looking good and thus getting into (delicious) salads, it’s mostly employed against women. In other words, men generally expect women to look slim, but they also poke fun at them for using diets or employing more considerate food choices to achieve that. That’s kind of messed up.
I asked a few female friends to see if they ever felt made fun of for eating a salad, and it ended up being a thing that was almost unanimous. I was told it’s a common annoyance in business and work environments, and in fact, some mentioned, it’s so common that men will make fun of ordering a salad, that some of them have started having salad parties away from men. Turns out that healthy food also tastes great, and that people generally feel great about being allowed to eat their food without being made fun of.
I, for one, have decided to just not poke fun at what people order in terms of food – whether it’s quantity, type or place. I hate it when people make ‘witty’ comments about me not drinking, and I realized phrases like ‘rabbit food’ kind of do the same to people that like salads. Next time, I’ll order some sort of salad too, because chatting with my friends sure seems to suggest they’re awesome.