• When lettuce cries

    lettuce-leaf-319177__180Growing up the only type of salad available was the one from my grandfather’s garden. Where I come from, gardens are always at the front of the homes, in plain sight for everyone passing by. By the way, I’m no lettuce expert, just sharing memories. During the summer we had regular lettuce, or germogli.  When the leaves were young and tender, grandfather would cut them and voila: dinner. The same process was repeated once new leaves grew back. I’m guessing it’s what’s called baby or spring lettuce? As the weather changed and we headed into fall we had radicchio, the leaves were larger, and a bit bitter. Again, leaves, no head of lettuce or Iceberg lettuce or Romaine or all the other varieties. I didn’t discovered that until I came to the States. Once I reached my forties and decided to eat more greens and raw foods, I began experimenting, hoping to find the perfect (to me) salad. I soon realized that if I bought a head of lettuce, it lasted longer than the bagged/washed/chopped variety. I ended up settling on butter lettuce, probably because I found the name appealing, who knows? Lettuce expert I’m not and I tend to eat very basic salads, with one exception. Waldorf salad. I’m not sure who convinced me to take the first bite, but I love that stuff.  I buy lettuce, but no matter how quickly I refrigerate the lettuce, it ends up in the garbage, wilted. And my grandmother’s voice plays in my brain about the starving children in Africa…When I was growing up, Catholic Nuns often went to Africa as missionaries and upon their return would tell us horrific stories of hunger, just before asking for donations, of course.

    Then one day, in one of the fancy food stores I found the living lettuce. I’m not making this up. Sold in a plastic container so you could see what you were getting, it came with roots. Wow!!! The first day, I carefully clipped a few leaves and they tasted wonderful, fresh and tender, sort of like the germogli from my grandfather’s garden. As I munched I started to think. The lettuce had roots, taking a leaf was like breaking someone’s limb. No, I’m not crazy, but I admit, I tend to dramatize a lot. And it didn’t get any better. The next time I wanted some lettuce I thought the live one didn’t look too happy when I lifted the top of the container, I could almost hear little cries of fear coming from inside… “No, no, not that leaf, please..”

    I’ll spare you the rest of the salad’s short life. These days I eat the spring mix that you get already chopped, washed and packed. And if they have a voice I wouldn’t know. I wear ear plugs while I eat salad.

2 Responsesso far.

  1. Jeannie says:

    You sound so much like my daughter. She is a vegetarian and bases her food selections on one simple criteria: if it once had a face, it’s off limits. As sensitive as she is about eating living things, she loved the little Chia herb garden I once gave her.

    Growing up, I was exposed only to iceberg lettuce. I was an adult (in age; I’m not sure I ever grew up, other than growing out) before I ever had Romaine in a Caesar salad (I prefer Romaine over iceberg but only if the leaves have been stripped from the stems; particular old bi…broad, aren’t I?) The first time I ever had arugula was in a salad at piano bar type restaurant around ten or fifteen years ago. I commented to the friend I was dining with that the greens in the salad looked like weeds pulled from someone’s back yard (I couldn’t comment on the taste because I failed to ask for the dressing on the side and it was swimming in a merely tolerable vinaigrette). I didn’t even know it was arugula until years later.

    I limit salads now to when I dine out since lettuce wilts and turns on me (you haven’t lived until you have to do battle with lettuce gone evil in the ‘fridge) before I can eat it all. The vegetable bins in my refrigerator now only holds the sugar free, dark chocolate I have to import from out of State.

  2. AHAH!!! Let’s trade… I’ll give you radicchio and I take chocolate…but yeah, my rules are if the thing has eyes I’m not eating it…I was in complete shock when someone invited me to a restaurant where I was encouraged to pick the lobster…a live lobster…seriously people??? That was a salad night to remember.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *