Monday, December 7, 2009


The quotation marks indicate that I am not really thinking about the ubiquitous ingredient for salads, but I think that I should start there. I guess that my favorite lettuce is a crisp Romaine, especially when it is part of a Cesar salad. According to Wikipedia, this is the same as what is known as "Cos" lettuce in the UK. The word "Cos" is usually suggested to come from the Greek island of Cos. This lettuce is reputed to have reached western Europe via Rome, which is why we call it "Romaine". In this country, French Culinary terms are viewed with favor, although no one seems to understand that an "entrée" is supposed to be an item at the start of a meal, not the main dish.

Another lettuce that I enjoy is known as "Butter lettuce". It certainly doesn't taste like butter to me, but it apparently gets it's name because it is allegedly so tender that it "melts in the mouth". An alternative name for this variety is "Bibb" lettuce, this lettuce is named after a 19th century grower, named "John Bibb". He developed this lettuce from "Boston" lettuce, which is similar but has wider leaves.

Then there are red leaf and green leaf lettuces. I think there was a distinctive name for this type of lettuce in the UK, but I have forgotten it.

I seldom never drive across the country these days, and I am rarely driven long distances these days. I do recall that when stopping for a meal in what are sometimes disparagingly called the "fly over states", one would always find salad made with Iceberg lettuce. Apparently it gets it's name because of the cool and crisp leaves, but to me it would be better known as "Cabbage lettuce". It is certainly compact and usually cheap. In our wasteful society, it is often used as a carrier for some other food, and it is usually left on the plate.

Enough about real lettuce. I seldom come across a sense I recall from B movies: "lettuce" was slang for money. Such as "greenbacks" a more familiar term for US currency.

By now, I have simmered down a bit from my frustration with what I once heard a friend describe as "lettuce". This usage refers to the custom of inserting loose leaf paper into programs. These are usually unwanted solicitations. Such an item was included in the program of a Berkeley Symphony concert we attended last week. It is always tempting to litter the auditorium floor with such unwanted inserts. However, I am not ready to indulge in such near-vandalism, despite being sorely tempted.

The church I attend offers a "bulletin" each week, essentially an order of service, with appropriate announcements and other information. Unfortunately, these totally acceptable four page or eight page documents are often disfigured with "lettuce". Yesterday, there was a single sheet of paper with canticles we were to sing; a single sheet of paper advertising a performance of an early English play; a form to volunteer to bring poinsettias and wreaths for seasonal decoration of the church; and a single page listing of those who would be functioning liturgically that day, with the regular list of clergy and vestry on the reverse side. I am happy to say that a friend and I managed to tote all this "stuff" out of the church to a suitable recycling bin.

And then there are the Sunday newspapers... Sometimes, as last weekend, a first distribution arrives on Saturday evening. Especially near Christmas, there are about two dozen separate advertisements. One is tempted to chuck them all straight into recycling, but the publisher cannily includes a copy of a magazine, largely featuring the rich and famous, plus the comic section with this bundle of rubbish. I am sure that there must be some poor souls who have the time and energy to sort through the pile of ads, clipping coupons which they may or may not attempt to redeem.

If that were not enough, when the news sections of the paper arrive on Sunday mornings, there is always a four page insert of even more advertising!

Perhaps this would be considered snobbish, but I would cheerfully pay a small sum each week to avoid receiving this "lettuce".

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