Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I Love Lettuce

I just realized that I have taken too many pictures of lettuce this week to not acknowledge it here. It's fresh at the store, it takes up yards of table at the farmers market, it's overflowing CSA shares. To see all those lacy green piles... I am so taken with how beautiful they are. Sure I make salads, and I've made an intricate lettuce soup with a savory custard on two occasions, but no portrait series or Ode to Lettuce. Until today- I declare my love!

Growing up we had "real" lettuce, or green leaf lettuce. This was because my mom grew up on white bread and iceberg (among other things) and so she bought dry, dense wheat bread (boy has that come a long way) and real lettuce and did not stock soda or cereal more sugary than Honey Nut Cheerios. As soon as I was at other houses or comparing lunchboxes I yearned for the exotic crunch of iceberg and remember begging for it (she must have been so horrified). I was rejected with "there is nothing IN iceberg lettuce". I have forgiven her for that and am in fact totally grateful that she made the choices she did in feeding me. I actually still love iceberg, particularly involved in a red onion-blue cheese dressing situation, but now I love all the other lettuces too...

This varietal is called Salad Bowl! It truly fills a huge bowl...at least briefly.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Relate to Horseradish

How do we learn what is appropriate for ourselves and those we share our lives with? It seems obvious how much horseradish is too much, when eyes water and the nose hurts, but how much horseradish is just enough or too little, how much will enhance and delight the right way when feeding yourself or someone else? At what point do we start to know the flavor enough to recognize its complement, and not be overwhelmed by it? Everyone’s taste is different and every mouth understands a different bite. If you overdo it, you risk losing the flavor or texture of the food. At the least, what measure makes it not even worth it, hardly a taste? We start to guess by seeing what everyone else does, and we learn by experimenting to find what feels right for us. If all goes well, you know what you like but are still willing to bumble through more trials to discover something new, or even the same thing over again.

It was a private moment of excitement years ago when I stood in my kitchen alone and put horseradish on a hard-boiled egg for the first time. I learned how much was appropriate for each bite, and was thrilled to experience this new combination (and discover a new vehicle for horse radish!). I wondered if this would satisfy anyone in the same way as it did me. I imagined standing in the kitchen with someone else, sharing horseradish in our own proportion, but remaking the discovery together.