Is there a more modest, humble, self-effacing, yes - … even saintly vegetable than ordinary lettuce, dear reader? Oh, I know: lettuce does not have many admirers. It has no fan club, no Royal Amateur Society, it has not been declared Immaterial World Heritage by the United Nations (one of the very few human accomplishments which does NOT enjoy that honour by now). Sadly, lettuce is the wallflower of the pantry and the fridge! It is so common, so taken for granted, that even gets looked down upon. It is the butt of jokes. It gets abused for the making of nasty metaphors. What to think, for instance, of this jibe shot by Tom Holt (Flying Dutch, chapter 1) at some insignificant personality in the past of an even more insignificant country:
His role in history was rather like that of lettuce in the average salad:
it achieves no useful purpose, but there's always a lot of it.
Oh, this certainly is a phrase well coined, and I have no doubt that the nincompoop whom it describes was a veritable epitome of irrelevance. But…. did poor Lettuce really deserve such denigrating treatment? Have we not all eaten her with relish and radish, with pleasure and potato? Has not every family gorged itself at least once a week on her fresh and lush young leaves? So there is a lot of lettuce on the menu and in the average salad… What of it? There is a lot of air and water in the world as well - yet is that a reason to spit on breathing and drinking and washing and airplanes?
No, dear reader! That is not how one should treat the humble, the lowly, the little leaf vegetables and the pawns of the plate! Instead we ought to revere a plant that has given us so much and asked for so very little in return! Lettuce Enjoy! I therefore cry with many master chefs of this world. And just to show you what miracles this marvellous Lactuca Sativa may perform, I will give you two splendid recipes that excel in both taste and simple sophistication. Today the first one, which I baptise:
Laitue aux fines herbes
Take a head of lettuce. Remove the stems and clean the leaves with fresh water. Once they have dried, break the leaves with your (clean) bare hands into reasonably sized parts (do not use a knife!) Put these in a bowl.
Chop and add:
Half a medium sized onion
One hard-boiled egg
Half a tomato
A small spoonful of capers
Sprinkle on top – while you listen to this classic Simon & Garfunkel song - the following green herbs (either fresh or dried):
Oregano (to taste)
Sage (if you cannot resist…)
Rosemary (if you must…)
and Thyme (cautiously)
Add salt and black pepper to taste
Finally, toss in a small splash of olive oil and a little lemon juice; then put in one or two generous spoonfuls of your preferred quality Mayonnaise (bottled Mayo works just fine).
Just before serving, toss the salad well until all the ingredients are properly mixed, but with Debonairetee, if you please (see the endof Colin Davies’s blog for this gorgeous word…)