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Posts Tagged ‘lettuce’

I still remember the moment I discovered that salad could mean something more than iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, croutons and dressing. I was at a fancy mountainside restaurant in Birmingham, Ala., with my future husband, probably around 1995, when the waiter brought out our small starter salads. They were filled with … leaves. And no hint of the crunchy, flavorless iceberg lettuce my fiance and I had both grown up thinking was the foundation of salad.

I learned that the leaves were baby arugula greens, and suddenly a new culinary world opened for me: Salad was no longer that bland bit of crunch existing only to carry dressing or serve as a low-calorie, tasteless diet option, but a real opportunity for nutritious, delicious creativity in the kitchen. Non-iceberg greens could be sweet or bitter and carry their own weight in a salad without relying on the dressing to make up for lack of flavor.

How did America get so obsessed with iceberg lettuce? Probably the same reason that grocery-store tomatoes and apples taste like mushy cardboard: According to Practically Edible, iceberg lettuce is easy to grow, easy to ship and lasts a long time in the fridge compared to other greens.

Through the early ’90s, it was nearly impossible to find any other kinds of greens in your average suburban grocery store, at least in Mississippi. I only had to remember one lettuce code during my entire six-month stint as a Jitney Jungle cashier in 1990.

I’m working my way through a big batch of Sylvetta Italian arugula mixed with other fresh greens this week, thanks to a winter CSA split with MrsDragon over at Mrs Dragon’s Den.  I even had to wash the dirt and a couple of tiny worms off, since my greens had just been plucked from the ground only two days earlier. Best salad ever.

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