I’ve always assumed Caesar Salad was invented by an Italian chef honoring Julius Caesar and his famed Roman empire. History has it on March 15, 44 B.C. – about 2054 years ago – Caesar met his fate at the hands of his Senate.
Volumes have been written and romanticized, often contradictory, regarding the precipitous murder of Julius Caesar.
The origins of Caesar Salad are contradictory, as well. According to Wikipedia, the salad’s creation is often attributed to San Diego restaurateur Caesar Cardini in 1924.
As his daughter Rosa reported, her father invented the recipe when a restaurant… “rush depleted the kitchen’s supplies. Cardini made do with what he had, adding the dramatic flair of the table-side tossing ‘by the chef’.”
My friend, Donna Newsom, continues the Caesar Salad evolution with her own spin on Caesar Salad recipes. Back in the seventies, Donna held the much coveted position of making tableside Caesar’s at the historical Lord Fox restaurant, still known for their “Tableside Caesar for Two.”
I was envious of Donna’s job as she made the “big bucks,” usually guaranteed a nice tip if she performed the tableside Caesar ritual flawlessly. Donna continues to make an incredible Caesar Salad, so I was hopeful she’d share her recipe with Ann Arbor readers.
“There is a great deal to say about this salad,” said Donna. “But I can’t give you a recipe because there is no recipe.” I’m used to butting heads with her and refused to give up without a fight. “Surely you can come up with something,” I replied, my voice reflecting my irritation.
“The Caesar is not made with a recipe since it has a subjective dressing,” she said. (“Subjective” dressing?) “I never use a recipe because some people like more lemon or vinegar; some like their anchovies as a garnish, and others may like them in the dressing.”
She continued by explaining that some folks like lots of garlic, others very little; some prefer copious grinds from the peppermill, others, none at all. “I’ve always made the salad according to the requests of my guests,” she explained. Fair enough, I thought. But I still didn’t have a recipe.
“I feel like I’m in some obscure cult or a secret society of Caesar Salad lovers,” Donna reminisced. “I think I’m the only one in the society. These days, I don’t know anyone who makes Caesar dressing at home from scratch,” she said ruefully.
I finally convinced Donna that folks may actually join her “Caesar Society” if she’d share a recipe, quantifying ingredients to her own palate.
This recipe is completed by my own stamp: homemade Pumpernickel- Dijon croutons are delicious in the salad. Fortunately Donna agrees!