I've actually known for quite some time that iceberg lettuce is not useless. I remember huffing and puffing like interns do when nobody's watching on my way to the New York Historical Society to photocopy recipes or stories from 1950 to 1965 featuring iceberg lettuce from Gourmet, Better Homes and Gardens and Understimulated Housewife Quarterly for one of the editors at Saveur, thinking "This is by far the dumbest thing they've ever had me do. Maybe more than hauling that sack of interestingly-shaped mesquite coal from Meatpacking all the way back to the office in the middle of the summer."
Then I sat my sassy buns down, pored over about 60 issues for the next few hours and learned that radicchio, chicory, arugula, mizuna, Bibb, all those awesome lettuces weren't really around back then. It was pretty much iceberg, with Romaine showing up in the popular Caesar. Yes, iceberg is mild-flavored and pretty much just water (in the nutrient and fiber departments), but now that we have all these incredibly varied lettuces at our disposal, a return to iceberg for what it offers is in order. And what it offers is a mild, light, pure vegetal flavor, a ton of crunch and plenty of moisture. I have two compliments for it.
First, I just got over a cold that took down half the office a couple of weeks ago. Don't worry, I made the best of it. There's a BBC show on Netflix called Survivors about a plague that kills most of humankind. I pretended through my hallucinating fever that I was one of the survivors. It's like a not-shitty Lost with no smoke monster to distract you from how shitty it is, you should watch it if you're laid out with a cold you're probably not going to die from. Anyway, with no appetite and a generally dried-out face, snacking on iceberg leaves was awesome. It was less "ugh, I wish I could taste whatever I was eating," and more "this is the only thing I feel like eating." So thank you, iceberg.
Second, FR recipe developer Paul Harrison made craymazing pork, cotija and sweet potato enchiladas verde a few weeks ago (for random dinner, not for Food Republic, you don't own us, dammit) that he topped with what he called his "LA-style iceberg slaw." It was just shredded iceberg, cilantro, a healthy dollop of good sour cream, lime juice, salt and pepper. Nothing else on earth could have possibly complemented those enchiladas better. So…yeah for 89 cents' worth of ingredients. And boo colds. And yay iceberg.
Seriously, watch Survivors.
More greenery for lunch on Food Republic: