A Lettuce Fetish

As I was having salad for lunch I realized several things. First, I was quickly devouring the lettuce in an attempt to get to the other vegetables, or as I like to think of it, the actual salad. Second, this bowl of salad filled me up so much I no longer wanted the chocolate cake I had planned for dessert. And lastly, which really ties the two previous points together, Americans have a strange fascination with lettuce.
And it is not so much that people like lettuce. If that were the case this fascination would be no more strange than Italians with pasta, or the French and cheese. No, Americans don’t seem to like lettuce. I have never heard anyone exclaim their joy at eating lettuce. No one speaks of how delicious it is. Yet it finagles its way into just about everything. I have never seen a country with such a high lettuce consumption for no apparent reason.
It is served as “salad” with dinner. It comes in sandwiches. It it is offered with several dressings on the side of things. Every single grocery store has different varieties of it. There are recipes for how to prepare it. Only in America is this thing even considered a vegetable! I mean, the Brits have a thing for it too, but they think of it more as a pet… A hobby. A novelty. Once in a while they will put it in a sandwich, or maybe prepare a salad with it, but it most certainly is not a regular part of their diet.
Also, keep in mind I am referring solely to lettuce, not cabbage, which is different. And can actually be made to taste like something.
When I ordered a Greek Salad they brought it out with lettuce. There is no lettuce in Greek salad! In fact, the only part of dining that has not yet had lettuce introduced, is dessert. I am wondering how long before we get lettuce wrapped brownies.
I have to admit the lettuce PR people did a fantastic job. They have somehow managed to convince everyone that if they just eat more lettuce, good things will happen. Yet there was no explicit statement as to what good things would happen, and somewhere down the line, for whatever reason, people started believing that lettuce would make them look better. Maybe I would be more inclined to believe this if the country with the highest lettuce consumption was not also the country with the highest obesity rate.
The French would be appalled at all these leaves being eaten. On a separate, yet not completely unrelated note, has anyone ever noticed how few French tourists there are here? I am telling you, it is the lettuce. They will have none of it! They have been eating their crème pastries for centuries, and have never even contemplated switching to foliage. They also happen to have never had a vast weight issue expanding across the continent. These two statements may or may not be mutually exclusive. They also eat off of exceptionally tiny china. This statement is directly related to statement number two.
The Albanians also have very strange eating habits. But I won’t get into any of that here since it has nothing to do with lettuce, or with my French example, the antithesis of lettuce eating.
I first realized lettuce was becoming a thing many years ago. Sean and I were having dinner (lunch?) at the Cheese Cake Factory, and I ordered a wedge salad. They brought me a giant head of lettuce, intact mind you, not tossed, or mixed with anything. I stared at it in confusion. Weren’t they supposed to make my salad for me? Sean explained to me that that is how wedge salads come. In one piece, and you are supposed to go at it yourself. I didn’t like this one bit. I don’t even think they provided me with the proper utensils to carve this thing. And I do mean carve, as tossing was completely out of the question. There were people around, and you can’t just toss salad around in front of other people. It is unseemly. So I hacked at it until I was exhausted. Then gave up and ordered French fries.
A few years later lettuce was no longer just its own pre-meal dish, or a side to different other entrees, creeping into sandwiches and sliding under fish. It began replacing things. Sure people had been eating large salads as entire meals for years. That was not uncommon, and hardly raised an eyebrow. But some people started using lettuce in lieu of bread. And they became so good at it, they stopped trying to use the lettuce leaves to mimic bread, but rather introduced lettuce wraps. It was odd, but considering there was a lot of meat and cheese inside of them, I supported the movement.
I remember having my first lettuce wrap at the Northern Lights Cafe on campus at UCLA. It wasn’t bad, but I was looking at it more as novelty item, amused with the whole thing. It had then not yet occurred to me how intrusive lettuce could be.
And now lettuce has evolved into its newest form, one that is absolutely terrifying. The essence of lettuce. Or lettuce-like substance. Apparently lettuce itself was not bland enough, and now there is this cellulose fiber gel thing which is used instead, and food comes with it or inside of it. I can’t even fully explain how this works. And I most definitely cannot explain how this tastes. Because it tastes like nothing. Have you ever tasted nothing?
There is clearly an obsession with lettuce. There is no other explanation of why we are cloning lettuce-like substances. None.


  1. Big Lettuce has people everywhere: on the board at McDonald’s, in government, and even runs a cartel keeping restaurants and diners up and down the country in check.

    Actually I feel the same way about bread. It’s ok, but the sandwich is what’s inside, the bread is just a kind of edible wrapper.

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