Shakespeare wrote these words in 1606, in his play Antony and Cleopatra. A mature Cleopatra is thinking back to the days of her immature romance with none other than Julius Caesar, when this exquisite turn of phrase springs from her lips:”…My salad days, / When I was green in judgment, cold in blood…” What I love is that almost scientific line-up of descriptors—”salad,” “green” and “cold”— that conjure up with perfect linguistic freshness and unflinching observation the essence of youth. (Cold? Who would have thought? And yet it’s true.) In fact, Wikipedia goes on to tell us, “The phrase became popular only from the middle of the 19th century, coming to mean ‘a period of youthful inexperience or indiscretion’.”
Once the salad days are past, we are tempted to do everything we can, if not to regain them, to at least recapture their green, cold, crisp vitality. Perhaps one of the best ways—and it is now the season—is to eat that which we wish to be. I recently spotted these leafy wonders at my neighborhood fresh fruit and veg vendor, and was amazed by the variety of shape and color. This is not an exhaustive collection of what I saw—there was more—but perhaps it’s enough to inspire some youthful, frolicsome foraging.
Varieties of radicchio, insalata romana, soncino, catalogna, erbette and cicoria—not in that order.