August 3, 2014
Researching the Gourmet memoir, I keep encountering such surprising little tidbits I can't resist passing them on.
When I wrote about celtuce a couple of weeks ago, I got so many questions about this Chinese stem lettuce, and so many requests for recipes. Clearly it's a vegetable that's completely new to Americans.
Or so I thought. But then I came upon this, from an early issue of Gourmet Magazine.
From Food Flashes April 1942
"Celtuce" is a new vegetable announced this spring by the W. Atlee Burpee Company, seed growers of Philadelphia…The seeds of this strange plant were sent to David Burpee three years ago by a friend, young missionary Carter D. Holton, located in Shun Wa Kansu near the Tibet border. "Here's a new vegetable for you to try on your farms," Dr. Holton wrote. "The Chinese think it's wonderful. They eat the young leaves raw, and when the plant matures, the stalks are peeled of their tough outer skin and heart part is used like celery or asparagus…."
The article talks about how farmers in Pennsylvania, California, and Arizona are growing this new vegetable. And in 1942, for the first time, seeds were available for home gardeners; price, 15 cents a packet…
"..Celtuce vinaigrette was served this spring at the festive dinner Lucius Boomer, president of the Waldof-Astoria, gives annually to the hotel and night club managers of New York City. This dinner is always the best that the Waldorf knows how to prepare, and that celtuce made the menu says a lot for its goodness."
This is celtuce, partly peeled.
And this is celtuce, peeled, sliced and par-boiled, ready to be stir-fried.
The question is: what happened? Why did celtuce disappear from America for the next 70 years? I'm going to try to find out…..
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