Romaine lettuce is a lettuce for those who feel too bougie for iceberg. It is only good in a Caesar salad. And, if you eat it now, it might give you e. Coli. In the wake of this terrifying news, maybe consider the fact that as a lettuce, it’s actually bad.
Romaine lettuce asserts itself by providing texture, crunch, and a watery sensation reminiscent of a soggy paper towel. It’s in every middling salad at every restaurant and fast casual lunch establishment within a three block radius of your office. It’s a lettuce that exists for those moments when the plate needs some green but definitely not flavor; throw a handful of julienned romaine onto a burrito bowl, and suddenly you’re eating something nicer than a pile o’beans and some carnitas covered in guac. It wilts at the slightest bit of heat and is truly only tolerable when grilled to a hard char at an overpriced farm to table restaurant, served with an artsy smear of romesco on a plate that is way too big. There are so many lettuces to try that aren’t romaine!
A good salad can be a transformative experience, but in general, salad is a chore. Why not enliven the drudgery of eating a mess of raw vegetables by making the bulk of what comprises said mess flavorful and exciting? Arugula has bite; it’s peppery and fun and keeps you on your toes. A mesclun mix carries unfortunate bad wedding food connotations and is vomit-inducing when slimy and expired, but at least there’s some variety in there. Lettuce should taste like something other than water.
Consider butter lettuce, instead—fluffy green leaves, pleasantly retro—less kitschy than iceberg and more exciting than romaine. Any salad you’d make with romaine could be made with butter lettuce and while no one would really notice, at least one to three people eating the food you made will smack their lips, tilt their heads, and say “What is it about the salad, Carol? Different dressing?” Sure, you did add an anchovy to the vinaigrette this time, but baby, it’s the lettuce.