I Declare War on Frisée!

January 11, 2012 | By | COMMENTS

No one looks at a coil of barbed wire and thinks, “I would like to eat that.” Yet there are eaters among us who see a plate of frisée and think that very thought. Psychologists have a word for these people: masochists. How else to explain the inexplicable desire to consume razor-like stalks of pale green lettuce, each bite ravaging the inside of one’s mouth? It’s time for someone in the food world to stand up and expose frisée for what it really is: a sadistic trick of nature, seducing chefs and gardeners around the world with a hidden pheromone that creates the illusion that frisée is actually good to eat. I assure you, it’s not.

When I first declared war on frisée (via Twitter), the responses were passionate. Food writer Charlotte Druckman responded, “But I like frisée.” The following dialogue ensued:

Me: NO YOU DON’T!!!

Charlotte: Why don’t I? I like its bitterness, and I know it can be a pain to eat, but I kind of like its wispiness too. Why don’t you like it?

Me: It hurts my mouth and it’s hard to spell.

To elaborate, frisée is unwieldy, it spirals off your fork and fights its way into your mouth, then fights its way down your throat. The bitter flavor is nice, I’ll give you that, but there are many greens that have a similarly bitter flavor–endive, for example–that aren’t nearly as unpleasant to eat.

Frisée defenders bring up the classic French Salad Lyonnaise, in which all of frisée’s negative traits are buried beneath lots of bacon and a poached egg. As noble an effort as that is, those elements would work just as well, if not better, in almost any salad. Try it on raw spinach, for example. Not only will you save yourself the agony of trying to swallow the bristles of a toilet bowl scrubber, you’ll probably get more nutrients from spinach too.

In very small doses, mixed together with other greens, frisée can be tolerable. For example, at lunch today I enjoyed a chicken salad that had cabbage, dates, toasted almonds, and just the tiniest whisper of frisée. The frisée was cut extra small so it was merely a visual cue that not every bite would be the same; and, with a very small leaf or two, I can see how frisée might be a capable, if unnecessary, salad addition.

But by itself? Frisée is a blight on our culinary landscape. The next time you’re at a dinner party and frisée makes an appearance, slam your wine glass to the floor and declare war, war on frisée. You may lose those friends forever, but at least you’ll have your honor. Fight the good frisée fight and our mouths will thank us forevermore.

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  • BD21

    OMG! I so feel the same and I cracked the hell up on this post! I have a french bristo near me that gave me a french Cesar lined with ALL Frisee, aka lawn mulch mixed in with some weed clippings, and I was SO MAD! I swore I would never, ever eat frisee again because seriously, who really eats that? I consider myself a foodie but frisee is not a food – I dont care what anyone says. I bet if you put some Frisee infront of my lawn mower it would jump at the bit to mulch it up… lol Thank you for saying all the things I have been saying to my family and friends :)

  • Sparky

    Oh shut up! You all love frisee! LOVE IT! One does realize that with tougher roughage such as this that it is advisable to soften it with a mignonette first for a few minutes. Then drizzle with a good finishing oil such as Spanish olive oil of the arbequina variety. I mean one knows that, doesn’t one? When one knows how to best prepare and complement whatever foodstuffs one is preparing and eating then one will enjoy it so much the better.

  • http://www.facebook.com/eve.kerrigan1 Eve Kerrigan

    I agree! I hate frisse. or frisee. or whatever. It is the pubic hair of lettuce. I waited tables in NYC for years and was so sick of seeing it that I fantasized about collecting all of the stuff from all of the pretentious dishes that contained it, flying over the city in a helicopter and dumping it all over Manhattan.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=638082340 Kevin Andrew Murphy

    Uh…you deal with it like endive or escarole or any other spiky lettuce. You run it under hot water to wilt it a bit, then dress it with a lemon dressing and give the acid a bit of a chance to soften in further. Then it’s delicious and fun.

  • Lucas

    I am at a restaurant right now and my wife had a coughing fit that lasted a good 20 minutes (actually, it was a horrid 20 minutes) brought on by “natures Brillo.” Friseé should be outlawed!