June 9, 2015. Because it’s time. Lettuce season.
I’ve been thinking about lettuce. All the remarkably tasty greens I start getting from my CSA farm share today. Sure, I’ll be making a lot of salads. But tonight I’ll be making a shockingly delicious and satisfying lettuce soup, too. I’ll show you how it turns out tomorrow.
I got the idea and basic recipe from M.F.K. Fisher’s How To Cook A Wolf:
“One delicious soup I have gradually evolved is made from one quart of garden lettuces, scallions, parsley, herbs, all chopped fine and then ground to paste in the mortar. Slowly I add seasoning and one quart of rich milk, and then chill it very well … for a summer lunch“.
This great book’s title isn’t a cooking technique or a recipe. The wolf is the wolf at the door. Fisher wrote How To Cook A Wolf at the tail end of the last Depression. The wolf was hunger. Or, more generally, scarcity. Or just anxiety about scarcity. Something that’s very right now for a lot of people, don’t you think?
So she wrote a kind of recipe for making the most of scarce resources. How to stretch a budget and get maximum nourishment, pleasure, entertainment and satisfaction from what you have. Without worrying about what you don’t have. At least when you’re at the dining table. When the meal is an important social experience that reinforces personal relationships.
Doesn’t sound like the perfect beach read. But when you’re putting together your summer reading list, think about this as a thoughtful break from the page-turners. A 1930s-1940s Better Cheaper Slower. The Art of Eating is a 784-page collection of five of M.F.K. Fisher’s classic books: “Serve it Forth,” “Consider the Oyster,” “How to Cook a Wolf,” “The Gastronomical Me” and “An Alphabet for Gourmets.” A lot of pleasure and thought for $16. Thoughts like this:
“No yoga exercise, no meditation in a chapel filled with music will rid you of your blues better than the humble task of making your own bread.” From The Art of Eating.
So after I make my Lettuce Soup, I’ll move on to an amazingly delicious Lettuce Sandwich. Stay tuned. Meanwhile, meditate on Jim Lahey’s wonderful bread. No kneading. Just patience. For the world’s greatest bread. With or without a sandwich filling.
When it’s out of the oven, share it. And your peace of mind. With the right folks. “Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly … Dining partners, regardless of gender, social standing, or the years they’ve lived, should be chosen for their ability to eat – and drink! – with the right mixture of abandon and restraint. They should enjoy food, and look upon its preparation and its degustation as one of the human arts.” From Serve It Forth.
And you should be sure to give a lot of lettuce a lot of chances. To be much more than salad. Much more than a substrate for salad dressing. When you get the really fresh and good stuff at your local Farmers Market, it’s got more than enough flavor to be a great main ingredient. The darker the green, the Better. Tomorrow: soup. Thursday: sandwich. Saturday: how to lose a few pounds in a few weeks.