If I say “lettuce and onions” that likely means the start of a salad, or maybe toppings for a burger to most people. Where I’m from in Yadkin County, NC, it means something a little bit different. This time of year, in the early spring, lettuce and onions is a special treat.
When that early lovely light green lettuce and spring onions come in the garden, Yadkin County folks pick them and serve them sprinkled with a little salt and pepper, vinegar and piping hot oil poured on top. It seems like such a simple thing, but there is something about this dish that just tastes like springtime and it is so delicious. Some folks choose to use bacon grease to create this wilted salad.
I did a quick survey of some friends near and far and sure enough, those from outside the Yadkin County area just thought lettuce and onions are burger toppings. My Yadkin County friends were quick to answer though on how to prepare lettuce and onions as described above.
We typically serve lettuce and onions with pinto beans and cornbread. I remember my Mamma making this when I was little. It was always one of her very favorite meals. She’d always shoo me out of the kitchen when she was heating up the oil in the cast iron skillet. She didn’t want me anywhere near the hot oil though she wasn’t afraid of it herself. I think maybe that’s when I really felt like a true adult myself, is the first time I made lettuce and onions my own self. There is something so satisfying about the sound of that hot oil as it sizzles on the lettuce.