(Why the sudden bout of linkage? I don’t know.)

Commenter Matt does not know what arugula (formerly, and sometimes still, known by the much less snooty-sounding names of “rocket” or “wild rocket” – on which more in a moment) is, which is a shame since it is very delicious. Well here is the Wikipedia entry on Eruca sativa, and here is a terrific Slate piece from a couple of weeks ago that runs through a few of its many virtues.

Haven’t tried it? You can probably find some at your local Whole Foods – though not you live in Iowa:

One line that landed a little flat, though, was when Mr. Obama sympathetically noted that farmers have not seen an increase in prices for their crops, despite a rise in prices at the supermarket.

“Anybody gone into Whole Foods lately and see what they charge for arugula?” the senator said. “I mean, they’re charging a lot of money for this stuff.”

The state of Iowa, for all of its vast food production, does not have a Whole Foods, a leading natural and organic foods market. The closest? Omaha, Minneapolis or Kansas City.

That really is an honest-to-God true story, and from what I can tell it’s the beginning of the arugula meme: only the occasional food blogger ever wrote about the stuff before those remarks, whereas afterwards

Here, in case you’re interested, is an interview in TAC where Michael Pollan tells Rod Dreher that the term “arugula” is

a marketing term invented by somebody who thought that this very common green, known by farmers all over the Midwest for many years as “rocket,” needed to be tuned up and given new appeal. It’s a complete marketing creation, and it’s completely ruined a very healthy green—at least from a political point of view.

For what it’s worth I’ve been completely unable to verify this account: the OED lists this New York Times article as its earliest occurrence of the word, and the simplest explanation for its usage is far more benign – the Italian word for the green is rucola, which could of course have morphed quite naturally into “arugula” in the mouth of an Italian grocer. It’s quite possible, though, that this term was later seized on by a marketing team, and humble wild rocket was made into the fancier-sounding quasi-delicacy (and the charge of consuming it into the all-purpose populist slur) that it is today.

But it’s good! And you should try it! Go to Whole Foods!

[ADDENDUM: I almost forgot! Here is Dana McCourt’s arugula-themed riff on Robert Hass’s “Meditations at Lagunitas”, and here is my own “elitist”-themed attempt at the same. Downward to dorkness …]

(Image – of a deliciously alliterative apple, arugula, and endive salad, natch – via Flickrer friedwontons4u.)