Oliver Cross: Ungarnished truth about lettuce

WHAT wouldn't a hungry person in the snow thank you for? A lettuce.

If nobody's ever opened a lettuce restaurant, if nobody's ever spent the working day longing to get home to their lettuce supper, if nobody's ever been injured in a fight over a lettuce, there's a reason. Lettuces are dull.

And I know they are supposed to be a weapon in the fight against obesity, but eating more lettuce won't make you thin; it's really better, and not much different, to eat nothing at all.

Eating lettuce only reminds that you've got a mouth and a gullet and that you could probably do something more interesting with your eating tackle.

Not that I'm against leaves as such; cabbage, spinach, even interesting forms of lettuce (I personally favour the cos) have their place; it's just that mankind didn't get where it is today by eating leaves – that was rabbits.

I don't even think that dull lettuces can be good for you. I saw in a newspaper once a list of 'essential foods' which provided the complex minerals and vitamins necessary for a long and healthy life.

The top 10 essential foods were all things like broccoli, spinach and rocket and I remember being worried by the fact that anybody who stuck to the essential foods diet would probably be dead of malnutrition within the year.

We like unhealthy combinations of fats and carbohydrates because that's what kept us alive before the days of plenty. Pre-historic individuals who liked nothing better than chewing lettuces probably didn't survive long enough to enter the gene pool.

And all this is brought on by the festive, which is to say eating, season inescapably raising the question, what on earth is the point of garnish?

Being a child of the 1950s, I'm imbued with the belief that you have to clear your plate.

For years I've achieved this by distributing the wilting, tasteless, nutritionally worthless garnish leaves among the proper food so that I'm not presented at the end of the meal with a pile of what you might call rabbit food, although I doubt any rabbit would eat them because garnish is mostly put there for visual purposes and rabbits aren't interested in aesthetics. (Well, I shouldn't think so, but I'd love to be proved wrong).

The point is that nobody ever saved their garnish until last, as you might save a big and crispy chip or the final bite of a good steak. Garnish is mainly eaten because it's there and is grown not for its taste or worth but because it's expected,

But these are hard times and how can we justify devoting our scarce agricultural resources to growing stuff that not many people like and nobody needs. Join my campaign: 'Go green, ban greenery'.

Corrie's unbeatable drama

CORONATION Street certainly has a long history of knowing how to do things; this week's disaster episodes matched the very first episode, repeated to mark the programme's 50th anniversary, for human interest and keen observation.

Although obviously not for action; in the very first episode the action highlight was Ken Barlow's dad mending a bicycle puncture, this week, there were flames, collapses, births, deaths, screams and John Staipe murdering someone by mistake, which, given his history, was no more whelming than watching a bicycle tyre being changed.

I was worried as this week's drama began that the Greater Manchester emergency services would not be up to the job; they were certainly very slow in getting to the scene and apparently only brought one doctor with them, and he seemed very young.

Then, with a wave of the magic wand, all was explained; as well as a gas explosion and the falling tram incident, the writers invented a huge simultaneous traffic accident on the M62, so that the hysterical Street residents had to save each other rather than being rescued by calm-minded professionals, which, from a dramatic point of view, made things a lot more interesting even if a bit less plausible.

But the lasting Coronation Street value, displayed from the first to the latest episode, is that people behave as you would expect people to behave. There are, as in Dickens stories and real life, a few grotesque characters but mostly you could meet any of the Street regulars in the taxi queue and not mistake them for ratings-fed fictional constructions, even though that is exactly what they are.

Incidentally, a previous soap disaster, when an airliner exploded – would you believe it? – exactly over the site of the Emmerdale village some time in the 1980s, brings back sad memories.

My then teenaged daughter was very pleased that she knew at least one famous person – the actor who played an Emmerdale character called, I think, Archie.

Imagine her absolute horror when she found that Archie had not just been culled from the programme, which is the kind of thing any soap actor should expect; he had actually, as a result of the aircraft explosion, been (steel yourselves) vaporised.

We understand that soap producers can't give way to sentiment but vaporisation is a pretty extreme option; no chance of a last dying scene, no hope of a miracle recovery. Basically, in soap terms, if you are vaporised by the producer, you might as well be dead.

A taste for festival fare

I WAS encouraged to hear on the radio (although this doesn't mean it was true) that one burger van had taken 10,000 in one day at the Glastonbury Festival.

I'm reluctant to repeat this in public because if McDonald's were to hear of it, they would no doubt start their own corporately-financed burger van chain ('Macs on the move') and run every hard-working, inventive, small burger business off the road.

But, since the high streets have largely been taken over by chain shops, banks and beauty businesses, I'm glad there's still somewhere (apart from the heroically surviving independent bakeries) for small food retailers to show their wares.

I love it when they all come out in the summer at festivals and fetes; European, West Indian, Middle Eastern, African and Asian food cooked with great pride and care – and what a pity there aren't, as far as I know, any English pie and mash stalls.

Still, if there's good money to be made and you don't tell Tesco, there's scope for more interesting summers ahead.

Leeds, Sweet street, 28th March 1979'LIGHTING'Mr. Eddie Mullan, a lift engineer at the City of Leeds Public Works Department, Sweet Street, gives a last polish to one of the four old gas lamps that are to be sent to Germany.

Leeds nostalgia: Bits of old Leeds sent to Germany... in 1979