by Malcolm Jolley
I’m not sure about the dietary requirements of the Pharaohs, but the first records of lettuce eating can be traced back to ancient Egypt. By the time of the Romans, there were proper salads being served at all the best orgies. Apparently even in antiquity, the question of whether the salad ought to precede or succeed the main course was as much cause for debate as it is now, or suggests Alan Davidson in his Oxford Companion to Food.
Directing our attention to matters closer to home, both in time and space, the first young lettuces and salad greens are showing up at Ontario’s farmers’ markets. There’s nothing quite like the pleasant bitterness of a truly fresh lettuce leaf. This simple pleasure ought, I think, be paired with the simplest of dressings: a good glug of grassy olive oil, a dash of salt and a squeeze of lemon. Dedicated locavores may opt for cider vinegar in place of the citrus, or eschew the acid all together. The best possible quality olive oil is essential, though. On the second night after marketing, a little bit of minced garlic could be left to macerate in the oil before dressing, just to shake things up a bit.