Chewing on salad days

The third book of William Gibson's most recent trilogy, Zero History, was released recently, and I bought it and read it last month, along with re-reading the first two books, Pattern Recognition and Spook Country. I really enjoyed the books, individually and as a whole. William Gibson might be the only writer who could write a novel with marketing as one of the central themes and make it interesting. In Spook Country, a drug addict who is being forced to work for a corrupt government contractor is observing the city of Washington, D.C.:

  • "He had spent three weeks here, once, in the salad days of the first Clinton administration, as part of a team translating Russian trade reports for a firm of lobbyists."

I really had no idea what was meant here. I've heard salad days once or twice before, but never got a definition. The American Heritage Dictionary gives this:

  • A time of youth, innocence, and inexperience.

This is one of those ones coined by Shakespeare, from the play Antony and Cleopatra, in a speech by Cleopatra in which she regrets her affair with Julius Caesar when she was young:

  • "My salad days, when I was green in judgment, cold in blood."
days of youthful inexperience