My dad grew up in Houston Valley in East Tennessee. It was a very rural area in Southern Appalachia. He said that his family was poor but did not know it. While my grandfather was at work at the Pet Milk factory all day, my dad went to school in a one-room schoolhouse. One teacher taught grades one through eight. My dad’s family grew most of their own food. In fact, my dad remembers what an event it was to go into town and go to the grocery store, because they hardly ever went. Grandma would even pick wild plants to eat. She knew which ones were safe and which ones were not. They raised their own chickens and canned most of their vegetables. My dad says that wilted lettuce was the type of recipe that kept his family from going hungry. My grandmother died when I was just a boy, but fortunately, my dad has copies of all her old recipes.
6 cups torn leaf lettuce
2 tablespoons vinegar
3 tablespoons finely minced green onion
1 ½ teaspoons water
3 or 4 bacon strips, fried crisp and crumbled
Salt and pepper to taste
2 ¼ teaspoons sugar
Mix the lettuce and green onions in a bowl and set aside. Pour the grease from the bacon skillet over the lettuce. Add sugar, vinegar, and water. Cook uncovered for one minute while stirring. Pour the hot vinegar over the lettuce and serve. (My grandmother would sometimes turn the hot skillet upside down over the lettuce to wilt it further.) Dad says others around the area included a boiled egg in the recipe.