Post #549 Lettuce Play

September 25, 2017 at 12:05 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Guess what this post is about?

I saw this cartoon on FB a few days ago and it got me to thinking about lettuce.  You know, there’s a ton of different kinds of lettuce, but I’m not going to go into them in this post because as I thought about lettuce, the first thing I thought about was salad.  Once I started thinking about salad, I started remembering some humorous things about it.

My first ever memory of lettuce as lettuce, per se, was on burgers.  Mom always made our hamburgers the same way when we were little.  Two slices of Wonder Bread, a smear of mustard, a slice of cheese, three pickles chips, the burger, a slice of tomato, and some lettuce.  I loved the flavor combination of mustard, pickle, lettuce, and tomato so much that for years afterward, I would eat that on toast, sometimes with a slice of cheese.  Even as not-so-long-ago when I was in working in Sri Lanka, I’d ask the cook in the cafeteria to make a lettuce-tomato-and-cheese-on-toast sandwich for lunch about three times a week.

I don’t recall eating salads when we were very young, but I have a vivid memory of a neighborhood friend in South Carolina who had taken a cucumber from his fridge and shared it with me.  We must have had salads often enough for me to recognize what the heck a cucumber was when I was four.  We left the skin of and he’d take a bite, then I’d take a bite.

But the meal where lettuce figured in heavily and remains a lifetime favorite started as a very young kid.  Tacos!  Love the heck out of tacos.  We’ve been eating tacos for decades and a bunch of different forms, but my favorite will always be the one from my youth.  A soft-fried corn tortilla with plain salted browned and drained hamburger topped with shredded sharp cheddar cheese, ripe juicy tomatoes and shredded lettuce.  My mouth is watering now.  My father, mother, and sister would put tabasco sauce on theirs, but that hurt my mouth so I seldom did that.  My younger brother did the same.

One time when I was a teenager, we had tacos again.  It was inevitable parts of the filling fell onto the plate.  I’d always just scoop ’em up and put them into my next taco.  One time though, with overfilled tortillas and feeling lazy, I left all the lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, and hamburger that fell out on the plate.  Looking at it, I realized it was all the fixings for a salad.  So I tossed some extra fillings onto my plate with a little salsa fresca and ate a salad.  About five years later, taco salads became a popular thing and I figured I’d lost a chance to become a bazillionaire.

When I was a teenager, we barbecued every weekend.  It was a big production and lots of dad’s marine friends would end up out at the house turning the whole thing into a pot luck.  Steak, chicken, beef roast, sometimes fish, the protein changed each week, but the sides were nearly always the same.  We’d have a big bowl of potato salad (which I sneered at), a tossed green salad, grilled corn on the cob, and sometimes fire roasted potatoes.  I usually was in the kitchen putting all the stuff together.  One day, the girlfriend of one of the marines volunteered to make the salad.  I didn’t pay a lot of attention to what she was doing.  Salad was salad – lettuce, cucumber, celery, onion, tomatoes.  In our house, it didn’t change much.  Her salad was amazing!  I asked her later what she did to it and her secret?  Salt and pepper.  Just salt and pepper sprinkled onto the veggies.

One of my best friends ever in my whole life invited me to a new restaurant in our home town.  Keep in mind, this town was small and isolated by the Arizona desert.  So the new restaurant that was making waves at the time was Wendy’s.  I know, but it was a small town, just one McDonalds at the time.  So my friend invited me to go to Wendy’s to have a salad.  At the time, Wendy’s had an open salad bar with minimal choices.  But they did have two kinds of lettuce!  Standard iceberg which was grown in the area and everyone ate, and Romaine which stayed fresh and crispy for so long.  I built a towering salad that from that moment on I named my BLT salad.  It had a base of lettuce, a ton of tomatoes, some sunflower seeds, a generous handful of cheese, croutons, and vinaigrette.  We sat and ate our salads, and for dessert, she had a chocolate frosty, and I had another bowl of salad.

When I first moved to the DC area, I was sharing an apartment with two other guys who happened to be in the Navy.  We portioned out our household tasks and I was nominated “cook”.  Which wasn’t a problem for me.  I asked them what they liked to eat, and planned meals accordingly.  They had said they like salad, so I made a big bowl of what I called “garbage salad.”  Everything that didn’t go into the garbage went into the salad.  It had every fresh vegetable I could find plus seeds, hard boiled eggs, cheeses, croutons, herbs.  It was a masterpiece.  It was one I learned to make while living with my sister when I was in college.  So along with the baked chicken, fresh biscuits, and steamed potatoes, this huge bowl of salad sat on the table like an ornament.  I started with a bowl of salad.  Once that was done, I ate a single piece of chicken and a biscuit, then had a little more salad.  The other two plowed their way through the rest of the chicken, most of the biscuits, and the potatoes.  The salad stayed untouched by them.  I didn’t think anything of it.  They were probably full, or not in the mood for a salad.  The next night, I made dinner and put the salad back on the table.  I again helped myself, but noted they didn’t eat any of it.  So the next night, I freshened the salad with more lettuce and a few more veggies, but it was getting a little weathered.  Again, they ate plenty of everything else, but no salad.  I shrugged, tossed the rest of the salad, and stopped making them unless I wanted some.  And even then, I only made enough for me.  So we go along a few months, and they come to me one weekend afternoon to discuss food and meal planning.  Mostly, they were wondering why I never made salad anymore.  I was gobsmacked!

“You guys don’t eat salad.” I said.

“We love salad.” they replied.

“So why was that when I put it on the table neither of you touched it?”

“You put things in there that we don’t like.”

“Like what?”  I listened and checked my mental list.  “So basically, you want a bowl of lettuce?”

“That’ll work.”

I started putting a bowl of lettuce on the table and they started eating it.  A lot.  I eventually expanded a little to Cesar Salad, Wedge Salad, and Chef Salad and those were acceptable, too.

I’m going to close with a story from a comedienne from back in the 90s.  She was cleaning out her fridge and found a lime.  She stared at thinking, “Hmm, I don’t buy limes.”  Then realized it used to be a head of lettuce!  I’ve had heads of iceberg lettuce shrivel and dry up on me, too.  So Fun!

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