Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Sad, Steady Decline of the Caesar Salad

Once upon a time a Caesar salad was a beautiful thing. Comprised of romaine lettuce and croutons dressed with Parmesan cheese, lemon juice, olive oil, a raw or coddled egg, Worcestershire sauce, anchovies, garlic, and lots of fresh black pepper, when ordered in restaurants it was prepared by a chef right at the table, an experience I cherished growing up in New York.

According to Wikipedia, the glorious dish was invented by an Italian immigrant named Caesar Cardini who operated several restaurants. Legend has it he invented the dish one busy 4th of July holiday when his kitchen was depleted and he ran out of ingredients; flying by the seat of his pants, he threw in this and that. The first documentation of Caesar salad dates to 1946, when popular newspaper gossip columnist Dorothy Kilgallen wrote: "The big food rage in Hollywood—the Caesar salad—will be introduced to New Yorkers by Gilmore's Steak House."

Caesar salad being prepared the way God intended.
Caesar salad-wise, those indeed were the good old days, unlike now when the bastardized version is on every menu of every place that serves food, from crummy lunch joints and lowly diners to those 5-star "farm-to-table" establishments that take themselves so seriously, as if all food doesn't come from a farm and end up on a table. Today I ordered one for lunch at a pretentious local restaurant which pretentiously has the word bistro in its name even though we are in Maine and there's nothing European about it, except of course for the pretentiousness. 

To be kind, the salad sucked. It was nothing but a bowl of chopped up romaine lettuce adorned with four or five slivers of Parmesan cheese and some bottled dressing slathered on top. There was not an anchovy in sight, forget a raw egg or any of those other things, like God forbid a million times, croutons!  (Our waitress finally remembered and brought some in a little dish.)

Making matters worse, today's pretend Caesar salads give the diner the option of adding on some sort of grilled protein slab, like salmon, chicken or steak. (Chef Cardini must be spinning in his grave.) This steady decline in the recipe is just one more example of how much worse life is for my son than it was for me. I swear the next time he comes for dinner I'll fix him a real one, right at the table. 

1 comment:

  1. I thought Caesar salad was named after Julius. What did I know?