Wilted Lettuce – The Covered Dish
I bet I could set everyone on their ears with my recent recollection of ‘air travel’. I flew into Des Moines, Iowa for a business meeting this past week and it certainly did not lack for adventure. I’ll start with the fact that you do not get to Des Moines via any direct routes. Then I’ll reflect on the fact that last Sunday we were in a tornado watch until 6pm, I was to fly out of Springfield at 5pm. My neck was swiveling all the way as I carefully watched the sky for tornado activity. We left Springfield at least 30 minutes late for Memphis, Tennessee. After a brief stop it was finally time to embark for Des Moines. The ground air conditioning on the plane wasn’t working. Evidently neither was the air once we got in route. I arrived around 10pm soaking wet. I had fanned myself with the emergency exit plans all the way. The heat that was generating from my extremities must have felt like a baker’s oven to the gentleman sitting beside me.
Mid morning Monday, while I was in meetings the airlines called 3 times to change my return flights. I finally flew home on a different airline! Oh yes, I first was coming home through Atlanta, then Chicago and finally Dallas/Ft. Worth. I thought if I held out a little bit longer I’d get the 4th phone call and I’d go through Denver. I was ready to call my sis, Judy, and say: “I’ll be there for supper!” What a trip it was. From a business standpoint it was a very successful trip. I’m sure glad after all the stress getting to and fro. Next time—I’m driving!
I just had to share that with you. My staff at work had fun teasing me. I flew on small planes, which are not my favorite, and the weather was chaotic to say the least. I’ve been thinking about the produce of early spring and decided it would be a terrific time to share my mom’s recipe for wilted lettuce. I never had a recipe for this dish until I told my mother, Betty, that I just had to have one for my cookbook.
The tender leaves of early spring make a delightful wilted lettuce when mixed with the flavors of seasoned bacon and small green onions. The simple vinegar dressing was something I always took for granted. I knew exactly how much sugar and vinegar to use by ‘look’. Mom is the brave soul who sat down and actually measured out the perfect vinaigrette for my recipe. Sometimes I have seen people put sliced radishes and hard boiled eggs on their wilted lettuce. Often it’s your heritage or the region in which you live that determines how you create wilted lettuce.
Isn’t it funny how we look back at the dinner table and we can actually see our loved ones gathered around eating specific dishes. Just now I was in two different settings, one was my mother’s dining table and the other was my Grandma Lucy’s table. I can see every bit of the salad devoured. Since wilted lettuce doesn’t hold over it was imperative that every last piece was eaten. I can also see mom actually putting lettuce strips in the small cast iron skillet and wiping out all the extra dressing. You’ll remember that I recently ran my recipe for rhubarb sauce. Well, these two dishes often were on the table at the same time. It wouldn’t be too long after the fresh lettuce, radish, onions, and rhubarb that we would have our first mess of creamed peas and new potatoes. I would go to the gardens with my grandpa Tot, (Whom I closely resemble.) and he would take a pitchfork and pull up a ‘hill’ of small potatoes. Often the pitchfork would spear a few in route!
I hope your childhood memories are as poignant as mine. It’s all there, the importance of family dining. The benefits of gathering around a table, wow, it creates conversation, warmth, and communication. I know there are lots of people out there who have a hard time gathering the entire family for a meal. Make it your personal goal to break bread together at least once a day. Look over the family schedules and find time to eat together.
Enjoy my wilted lettuce, you know that I now have to go out and make a bowl, right? It has been beautiful here in Branson West. Each day has been better than the next. Simply yours, The Covered Dish.
Garden Lettuce or Romaine
6 slices of bacon, slice thin, while frozen
6 green onions, finely diced, including some of the green tops
1/4 cup sugar, plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon celery seed
1/4 cup white or cider vinegar, plus one tablespoon vinegar
Before you begin to make the hot dressing chop a 4-quart bowl full of fresh garden lettuce or romaine. Fry the bacon and allow to cool. To the bacon pieces add sugar, salt, pepper, celery seed, and vinegar. Return to the stove and bring to a boil. Remove immediately and pour over the onions and chopped lettuce. Mix thoroughly.
Serves 4-5 persons (Unless I’m coming for dinner!)