How to Toss the Perfect Caesar Salad

A Caesar Salad is a salad of romaine lettuce leaves and croutons, dressed with parmesan cheese, lemon juice, olive oil, eggs, Worcestershire sauce, anchovies, garlic and black pepper and is often prepared tableside. Variations could include other varieties of lettuce, grilled chicken or shellfish, capers, Romano cheese and crisp bacon.

Caesar Salad

Who invented it?

There are many claims as to who invented the Caesar Salad. The common myth is that Caesar Salad was named after the Roman Emperor but that is supposedly just a myth.

So, who invented the Caesar Salad? This is fun but at the same time a very controversial story. It is about two brothers from Italy that stumbled upon something that would become the emperor of salads. Caesar Cardini was born near Lago Maggiore, Italy, in 1986.

He and his brother, Alex, emigrated to the US after World War I. The Cardinis lived in San Diego but operated a restaurant in Tijuana to circumvent prohibition. Caesar’s daughter Rosa (1928) recounted that her father invented the salad when a Fourth of July, 1924 rush depleted the kitchen’s supplies.

Caesar Cardini made do without what he had, as he didn’t want to disappoint the customers and created or rather concocted the salad by preparing it at the table to add drama and flair. The salad soon became a hit and people came to the restaurant just to have the salad.

Others claim that the original name was Aviators Salad as Alex Cardini was a pilot for the Italian Air Force during World War I before he moved to the US and joined his brother Caesar in Tijuana.

The way this story weaves itself is, it was prohibition and the Hollywood set went to Tijuana to party at Caesar’s Place as it was extremely popular. After a long night of partying and drinking and missing curfew, a group of Rockwell Field Air Force pilots woke up at Caesar’s and Alex made a salad for breakfast that morning and this is what we know today as Caesar Salad.

That morning Alex called it Aviator Salad in homer of his flying buddies, but as the salad gained popularity with visitors from Southern California it evolved into Caesar Salad.

Julia Child’s Memoir

It is also worth mentioning as the salad’s history would not be complete without this input from Julia Child.

Julia Child dined there as a child, and remembers little titbits, but is certain that did have Caesar Salad made by Caesar himself. According to her, she remembers that her parents did order Caesar Salad and Caesar himself rolled out the big cart up to the table and tossed the romaine in a great big wooden bowl. The romaine was not chopped but left in whole leaves.

Caesar felt that the natural shape of the leaves was a perfect scoop with a handle so thus it could be eaten with fingers. So, the leaves were arranged on the plate with the tips to the center and the stem outward for easy eating.

Royal twist to the tale

In the book In Search of Caesar, The Ultimate Caesar Salad Book by Terry D. Greenfield, it is stated: “In Europe, Caesar’ Salad was also beginning to make an appearance. The legend attributes the salad’s debut across the ocean to Walls Warfield Simpson (mistress and ultimately wife of Prince Edward VIII of Wales, former King of England). Simpson often visited and partied in the San Diego and Tijuana areas in the 1920s. It is said that Simpson met the Prince of Wales there, at the Hotel Del Coronado.

During this time, Simpson visited Hotel Caesar’s Place and became fond of Caesar Salad and was sometimes an overbearing guest demanding that Caesar himself toss the salad at her table-side, creating quite a fuss.

It is also that because of Simpson’s extensive world travels, Caesar Salad was introduced to many of the great European restaurants by her instructing international chefs as they struggled to recreate the dressing to satisfy the soon-to-Be-Duchess of Windsor’s discerning palate.

Another contender

Supposedly, there is also another chef who claims he is responsible for Caesar Salad! Giacomo Julia, an Italian cook in Chicago, Illinois, claims the salad was invented by him in 1903.

Giacomo Junia was the cook in a small restaurant called the New York Café. He catered to American tastes and created the salad and called it Caesar Salad after Julius Caesar the greatest Italian of all time.

Junia never thought that the salad would be so popular and was more surprised than anyone when patrons started to ask for it.

Now, it is up to you to decide which story is true, but until then let’s enjoy Caesar Salad without having to worry about who was responsible for creating the most popular salad the world has ever known!

How to toss the perfect Caesar Salad

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To be continued…

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