Few things in this world have their purpose as clearly laid out as lettuce. The whole point of it — specifically, the most widely used iceberg variety — is to add a veneer of virtue to the fast-food eater’s experience. Place a pale green leaf between the mustard-slathered bun and thick, juicy patty, and you’ve gone some way towards mitigating the artery-hardening qualities of a burger. Almost anyone who eats burgers — and rolls, sandwiches, tacos, nachos — knows that the first step towards an enjoyable meal is taking out the soggy leaf.
Clearly, this knowledge did not inform KFC Australia’s recent attempt to grapple with the lettuce shortage in the country. The fast food chain announced that it is replacing at least some of the lettuce in its offerings with cabbage. Cabbage may have its supporters, who will likely tom-tom its superior nutritional profile, crunchier texture and more robust flavour. But the fact remains that nobody eats fast food for health — it is supposed to be purely a celebration of sodium-laden, deep-fried goodness that one may or may not regret eating in the distant future, but which is sure to satisfy one in the immediate term. Why ruin the experience for the appearance of virtue?
Indeed, the only food in which lettuce can be said to have a rightful place is a BLT sandwich because, well, it’s in the name. From everywhere else, the sad, sodden leaf could be banned without really being missed.
This editorial first appeared in the print edition on June 8, 2022 under the title ‘The lettuce ruse’