…I was gladdened to find, at last, hard scientific evidence that lettuce is an unsuitable food and that a craving for lettuce is evidence of a diseased brain.
-from Jeffrey Steingarten’s essay Brain Storm
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.
For many chefs there is a discrepancy between what they want to serve and what will please their customers. As a chef I want to take seasonality seriously, but in most restaurants the owners and clientele find it unacceptable to not offer a green salad, even in the dead of winter. I deeply resent this.
Don’t misunderstand me: I like green salads. They’re refreshing. Personally, I like eating them after a rich meal like grilled steak. They’re a delicate, ephemeral expression of summer. While they can’t truly satisfy without some bolstering by bacon or egg or bread, they are the very image and flavour of the season, the verdant, curling growth and pungent flavours of the plant kingdom.
That being said, our love of greens can only be described as mania, and folly. There’s a detailed description of the green-growing operation at Earthbound Farms in The Omnivore’s Dilemma that puts the industry in prospective. For an Edmontonian to stomp over frozen pavement and sit in a restaurant with foggy windows and order a green salad is nuts. Especially considering how uninspired the standard offerings are: “spring mix” dumped from a plastic clamshell, tossed with some kind of seed or nut and some kind of dried fruit, then muddled with some kind of vinaigrette.
Let’s enjoy green salads now, then gracefully surrender them to the first frost.
Three Green Salads that I Enjoy Eating
Dandelion. I’ve written about this before. Possibly my favourite salad of all time: bitter dandelion greens from the yard with some combination of egg (hard-boiled or poached), bacon, garlic, bread (crouton or simply toasted), and mustard.
Styrian. This is a salad that Lisa and I developed from our Tipi Creek vegetable shipments. It’s comprised of arrowleaf lettuce, shaved kohlrabi, diced onion, and Styrian pumpkin seed dressing. The sulphurous bite of the raw onion and the mustard-fart flavour of the kohlrabi make this salad profoundly Teutonic. Radishes and horseradish are welcome substitutes/additions. Styria is a region in Austria that produces superlative pumpkin seed oil.
Radish Greens. No garnishes, just radish greens in honey mustard dressing, eaten alongside radishes and buttery biscuits.
1. One of Brillat-Savarin’s famous aphorisms is translated thusly: “The proper progression of courses in a dinner is from the most substantial to the lightest.”
2. Edmonton is starting to take the flavour of its greens seriously, thanks in large part to the Lactuca growing operation. I think those guys are personally responsible for increasing the number of flowers consumed by Edmontonians by at least 1000%.