Monday 9 September 2013

Waldorf Salad and Fawlty Towers

Salad made using an approximation of the recipe that was drummed into my head by classic comedy moment in a hotel in Torquay, England.

Television show: Fawlty Towers, Comedy, UK, 1975 and 1979

What does it mean to me: 
Fawlty Towers is a classic British comedy set in a hotel at the seaside town of Torquay.  The hotel is run by the inept rude Basil and his bossy wife Sybil, surrounded by a cast of beautiful painted characters.  I want to both strangle and rescue the hapless Basil as he gets into all kinds of scrapes.  Interestingly the one sane person in the show, Polly, is played by the real life wife of John Cleese who plays Basil.

I watched it as a child with my family. In my memories there were the seven kids and mum and dad sitting on the saggy old green couch under the pinboard of posters. Actually I suspect some of the little ones might have been in bed. We would shriek with laughter until we were in convulsions (in the days before people began to LOL.)

We didn’t have holidays where we stayed in hotels so Fawlty Towers seemed very exotic. It took me a long time to realise that the name of the hotel was a joke.  (And even longer to realise it was set at the British seaside which compared to our Aussie beaches also seemed a joke!)  We loved to imitate Sybill calling to her husband ‘Basil! Basil!’ every time he did something wrong. Which was often. I was too young to have watched Monty Python and this seemed very grown up and so much fun. It is one of my happy childhood memories.

Food moment: 
Waldorf Salad. In the episode named after the salad, the American guest kept asking for Waldorf Salad – apple, celery and walnuts.  (Actually I had to refresh my memory and only could find a Waldorf Salad remix online which showed that my memory is faulty (fawlty) and it is actually celery, apples, walnuts, grapes.  Grapes?  I don't remember grapes!)

Basil had let the chef go early and was in a pickle because this dish was not on the menu.  The way he handled it was hilarious - 'may I recommend...' 'tomato, lettuce...' 'have you by any chance ever tried....'  It is such a great scene that plays out national stereotypes - the obnoxious demanding American and the fawning Englishman stuck in his ways.

Ever since I have been convinced that this is a dish that Americans are fond of.  According to Wikipedia, the salad was created at the Waldorf Hotel in the late Nineteenth Century, featured in cookbooks and a Cole Porter song but it was also made more popular by its appearance in Fawlty Towers.  Popular culture is funny like that, the way it feeds upon itself. 

Recipe notes:
After searching online and offline, I used a recipe from Gretel was getting fatter. It appealed because I share her childhood dislike of celery. But I had a bunch of the stuff and wanted company for a nut roast. The mayo I used was a cheap low fat one and was quite sweet. I think this would work better with half mayo, half yoghurt or a much better mayo. And I couldn’t stick to the recipe. I added poppyseeds.

Random Notes:
I made this many months ago.  The recipe got left by the wayside and then put aside for Vegan MoFo.  I had been to my parents' place the previous day with some nut roast for lunch and had leftovers.  Waldorf Salad has been on my mind for some time because I love Fawlty Towers.  Sylvia and I went to the park and came home with little time to make dinner.  Warmed up nut roast, salad and corn on the cob was perfect.  Quite an old school 1970s vegetarian sort of meal.  Perfect for remembering Fawlty Towers.

Waldorf salad
adapted from Gretel was getting fatter
serves 3-4 as side dish

2 pink lady apples, diced
3 stalks of celery, diced
1/2 cup walnuts
3 tbsp mayonnaise
juice of half a medium lemon
1 tsp wholegrain mustard
1 tsp poppyseeds

Lightly whisk together mayonnaise, lemon juice, mustard and poppyseeds.  Toss through apples, celery and walnuts.  It kept overnight but I think was better on the first day.

On the Stereo: 
Hal David and Burt Bacharach: the Songbook Collection: Various Artists

This post is part of Vegan Month of Food September 2013.  This year for Vegan MoFo I am cooking recipes inspired by some favourite tv shows - and veering off topic occasionally.  Go to my Vegan MoFo list for more of my Vegan MoFo posts.      


  1. Personally I will do that but my slices will be a little smaller, i dont like to big slices in salad.

  2. I'm probably the only american ever who has never had waldorf salad lol! I'm just not that into mayo...but maybe if i remade it with a yogurt-based dressing...

  3. Oh yum, I will be making this- I love apple and walnuts in salads

  4. I'm not keen on waldorf. I love celery in soups and sandwiches, but I'm not keen on it in salads.

  5. bahahahaha. Best TV show ever. I've never had it either!

  6. Fawlty towers is BRILLIANT! One of my all-time favourites :)
    You should definitely try this Kale Waldorf Salad. I've never had the 'real' Waldorf before but love this one. I could eat the dressing with a spoon!

  7. Yay! I also looove Fawlty Towers (and John Cleese). It may be a classic, but the episode with "don't mention the war", it always made me pee my pants from laughter.

  8. Love this post! I can still hear the American guy listing. off. the. ingredients. after all these years!

  9. I've been reading your posts with much interest Johanna, just not commenting on them, and they are making me smile. I am familiar with some of the shows you've mentioned and not so much with some, but its your memories of them that are making me smile. I remember FT, but never watched it -more of a cultural thing, I could not relate to it.

    There was a pub in Glasgow called Waldorf and whenever I walked passed it of course the thought of waldorf salad would cross my mind and I think yeah I'll go home and make some, but I never did.

  10. Love Fawlty Towers so much - my Dad looks a bit like John Cleese and used to do Basil impersonations when we were kids which we thought was just as hilarious as the show. I've never been interested in trying a Waldorf salad as I'm not very enthused about celery.

  11. hehe! Love the way you make these connections! Fawlty Towers was another great show!
    Though I'm not as keen on celery as I am on funny tv shows ;-)

  12. Yes Fawlty Towers! I'm on a roll with knowing your shows right now!

  13. I missed Fawlty Towers in a dedicated sense but the 'Basil' (BaSil) line comes out of my mouth often...pretty much whenever I say basil actually :-) It's just one of those classic shows! I would like this salad minus the mayonnaise but would then love it too.

  14. Haha - I can't think of waldorf salad without thinking of Fawlty Towers ever! I think that's the reason I've always been a bit leery of making it, but yours actually looks really good!

  15. I'm relieved you didn't run out of waldorfs along the way. ;-)

    I love the idea of replacing some/all of the mayonnaise with yoghurt.

  16. I cannot tell you how much I love Fawlty Towers! From them I learned the weird and funny relationship that the Brits and the Germans used to have after, well..."Don't mention the war!"

  17. Never seen that show but I do love Waldorf salad!

  18. Basil Fawlty - funny but so awful. Amazing that they did so few episodes of this show, but what an icon it is. Great salad - I'd eat this and I am not one for salads.

  19. I remember Waldorf salad from my childhood! Yours looks wonderful, and poppy seeds sound like a great idea!


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