ORIGINAL DISHES: THE CAESAR SALAD Tuesday, March 15, 2011
But as we know, that dressing is a complex and flavorful concoction, and making a good Caesar dressing requires a long list of ingredients. At The Original, we emulsify our dressing with olive oil, lemon juice, egg yolk, red wine vinegar, parmesan cheese, roasted garlic, raw garlic, shallots, capers, salt, pepper and anchovies (and if you’re really in need of animal protein, you can top it off with grilled chicken or, if you prefer, fresh, line-caught salmon).
So from where did this dressing come? Who authored what’s not only a beloved recipe, but a ubiquitous staple found on menus far and wide?
If you take a gander at the chiseled bust of the late Paul Newman, whose laurel leaf-crowned image graces the Caesar dressing bottle his Newman’s Own brand trumpets, you might think that this dressing dates back to Cleopatra, the Ides of March and the Roman emperor’s fateful run-in wit his senate.
And If you inspect the ingredients, they seem Mediterranean enough, but the real story begins half a world away, 2,000 years later.
It’s widely accepted that the first proper Caesar Salad was not really dreamt up as much as it was improvised. In the middle of a near-the-turn-of-the-20th-century Independence Day celebration at his Sand Diego* kitchen, Italian-born Mexican Caesar Cardini’s panty ran dry. It’s said he created the dressing that he’d use to dress his salads that day—thus immortalizing himself—from what little he had on hand. It was, as we now know, a smash.
And so, almost literally, Caesar, with a room full of hungry patrons and nearly nothing left to serve, made lemonade from lemons.
If all of this is true, then the story is sensational, because it’s an American success story, an immigrant success story and a story that reminds us that sometimes what we need is that which we already have. We just need to remember to think about what we have a little differently.
*It’s also possible that, If all of this really is true, the dressing might’ve been born in Tijuana, where Cardini operated a second restaurant, making it a Mexican immigrant’s success story.