Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Lettuce Say the Magic Word

Chef Fred Raynaud has convinced us that lettuce is a magic word. He exclaims: "What a wonderful word—the word lettuce is. It is almost a proclamation. It beckons all its comrades to jump into the salad bowl and create something grand. It is a command, a call to action, a culinary trumpet if you will" (Reflections from the Kitchen).

We once stumbled across someone described as "a literary lettuce-leaf." It is a withering put down, presumably; a "literary artichoke" wouldn't sound so limp and would offer a more substantial heart within. And yet, perhaps enchanted by the alliteration, we find ourselves intrigued by the idea of a literary lettuce leaf.

Here's a lovely Lebanese folk song concerning a lettuce leaf:

The roses are full, full
The roses are always on my mind.
I love the roses only
And, O my soul, the lettuce leaf.

In a poem by Ricardo Sternberg, a lettuce leaf becomes the shroud of an expired mouse.

In Tom Robbins' Villa Incognito, mayonnaise cloaks a lettuce leaf like a magician's handkerchief, restoring the leaf's capacity to delight:

Yellow as summer sunlight, soft as young thighs, smooth as a Baptist preacher's rant, falsely innocent as a magician's handkerchief, mayonnaise will cloak a lettuce leaf, some shreds of cabbage, a few hunks of cold potato in the simplest splendor, recycling their dull character, making them lively and attractive again, granting them the capacity to delight the gullet if not the heart.

Fun fact: "In medieval belief, there were many ways a demon could enter the body, sometimes via so seemingly innocuous a vehicle as an unblessed lettuce leaf eaten by a careless nun" (Hilaire Kallendorf, Exorcism and Its Texts).

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