Growing 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.