I am not a huge salad person, but when I find a salad that I love, I go all out in unabashed foodie fangirl passion. On the very top of my all-time favorites, food-wise, is the Original Caesar Salad. The International Society of Epicures in Paris named the Caesar Salad “the greatest recipe to originate from the Americas in 50 years”, and I am quite inclined to agree!
My love for a great Caesar Salad runs so deep, that I find myself taking it personally when people erroneously assume the original recipe requires anchovies in the dressing, or when they recommend as “the best” version some knock off bottle of dressing. (Not really, but I do get a foodie eye-twitch, haha!)
Now, don’t get me wrong. I will enjoy a random restaurants Caesar salad knock-off just as well as the next gal, but nothing can top the original recipe, straight from the source.
The Origin of the Caesar Salad
In the 1920’s, Caesar Cardini, a European restaurateur, chef, and hotel owner was operating a chain of successful restaurants in California. His primary restaurants operated out of Sacramento and San Diego… that is, until the prohibition hit.
With booze being a major no-no in America, Cardini decided to open a new restaurant in Tijuana, Mexico, where all of his regulars (mostly rich Americans and Hollywood celebrities) would go to drink. In no time at all, business for restaurants in Tijuana were booming in the 1920s, and Cardini’s was one of the more prominent and successful of the “get yo drank on” crowd.
So! How did Caesar’s famous salad come into being? According to Caesar’s daughter, on July 4th, 1924, Caesar was running short on supplies due to an unexpected rush of customers. Faced with turning customers away, he concocted on the fly a salad and dressing out of some of the remaining ingredients he had lying around. The salad was rather simple and certainly not a main entrée, so he decided to get all fancy pants with the selling point that.. *drumroll*… This salad would be made TABLE-SIDE!
While the concept of being catered to table-side and watching the chef make a yummy salad all for your onesie certainly kept business booming that day, Caesar actually managed to whip up a freaking amazing salad, that has stood the test of time.
The salad took America, and soon, Europe, by storm. People began clamoring for the recipe, which prompted Caesar to move his family to Los Angeles in 1935 and focus on the production and marketing of his salad dressing which he trademarked in 1948.
While you can still hop on over to Tijuana and visit the Hotel Caesar to try the original salad, you don’t have to go to such drastic measures to get a taste of the real thing. After 1948, Caesar’s daughter took control of Caesar Cardini Foods Inc., and much later, the Cardini’s brand was sold, and is now owned by the T. Marzetti specialty salad dressing company. So the original Caesar Salad Dressing? Available at any supermarket today! (Click here to check out the salad dressing website.)
If buying the dressing in a bottle is a little too prole for your tastes, the good news is, the original dressing recipe was revealed in the 1970’s. As a child, Julia Child ate at Caesar Cardini’s restaurant in the 1920s and had a Caesar salad made by Caesar himself. 50 years later, she contacted Rosa Cardini (Caesar’s daughter) to get the original recipe for the Caesar Salad to put in her book. (Click here to see the original dressing recipe!)
Me? I am personally a little too impatient to make the dressing from scratch when I can just buy it, pre-made to perfection at the local supermarket. Hehe.
Oh! And all that “a real Caesar Salad has anchovies” rubbish? That came about when Caesar’s brother, Alex Cardini, eventually opened a chain of restaurants in Mexico City, where he also featured Caesar Salad on his menu. The only difference between his version and the traditional Caesar Salad? He added anchovies, (whyyyyyy?!) and this tweak is still a popular addition for Caesar Salads in many restaurants. (Blech!)
So how to you make an original Caesar Cardini Caesar Salad?
You Will Need
Bottle of Caesar Cardini’s Original Caesar Salad Dressing
Freshly Ground Pepper
Basically, chop your romaine into large pieces and toss with Cardini’s dressing, a splash of lemon juice and parmesan cheese. Top with croutons and freshly ground pepper, and serve!! Voila!! Tasty, tasty yummy, yummy originality! (If you want to take your foodie madness to the next level, you can make the salad in the original presentation form… do not chop the lettuce, but serve the romaine spears individually drizzled with the above ingredients!)