Iceberg lettuce fell out of favor with the hoi polloi with the introduction of leafy lettuce and imports of varieties such as radicchio, arugula, mache and their like. The wedge of iceberg lettuce with Thousand Island dressing disappeared almost overnight from menus and dining room tables. No great loss, I admit.
It didn’t take long for “gourmet” cooks to remove it from their shopping lists, replacing it with the more trendy Spring Mix or some with exotic names, and on the rare occasion when they would fall from grace and sneak a head into the house, you may be sure it was hidden in the back of the crisper. In the supermarket trolley, it was hidden from sight under organic granola, freshly squeezed orange juice (not from concentrate) and imported baby squash.
One simply didn’t buy iceberg lettuce. Well, one didn’t admit to it.
On the other hand, you simply can’t make a good tomato sandwich without iceberg lettuce. All the others are wimpy substitutes. Who can forget the crunch of iceberg lettuce paired with tomatoes so ripe the juice would run down to your elbows?
I freely admit that I no longer use Wonder Bread (a whole loaf can be compressed into a ball the size of a walnut), but otherwise, I don’t mess around with a tomato sandwich. Neither should you. Good bread, iceberg lettuce, vine ripened tomatoes, Hellman’s Mayonnaise and lots of salt and pepper. ‘Nuff said.
But some of our favorite foods are coming back into fashion. Recently, I provided my dinner guests with a lighted tea candle, a bamboo skewer and a plate full of marshmallows, graham crackers and a Hershey bar. They toasted skewered marshmallows over the tea light and made a sandwich of the marshmallows and a piece of Hershey Bar between graham crackers. They were enchanted with a childhood “make your own” for dessert.
Are you old enough to remember Victory Gardens? The shortages of WW2 and for several years thereafter made them quite prevalent in American backyards. Even the pickiest youngsters developed a taste for strong tasting vegetables such as radishes, bell peppers, etc. because they had helped grow them in their own backyard.
School gardens have become quite common, thanks to the many grants which are available, and to the volunteers who provide guidance.
Curiously enough, inflation and the rising cost of living have encouraged more home vegetable gardening. Fruiting and flowering plants such as tomatoes, peppers, okra and so many others have found new homes in flower beds, providing bright spots of color as well nourishment. Even a sunny balcony is likely to have a vegetable or two planted in a beautiful container meant for flowers.
I rely on the Port Royal Farmers’ Market for most of my vegetables, but I still go to the supermarket for iceberg lettuce. The farmers around here seem to have forgotten how to grow it!
So all you au courant cooks out there, loosen up. After all, iceberg lettuce is sooo retro!