caesar salad

Excuse me as I indulge in a rather random blog post. They say that you (should) learn something new every day, but those new things don’t necessarily have to be useful. They might have to do with the naming of common food products, for example, as is the case with the omnipresent Caesar salad. It has nothing to do with the Roman emperor of the same name.

We see the Caesar salad offered at all sorts of different restaurants, from humble bar and grills to fine dining establishments. There are certainly some variations to the recipe, but you’ll usually find romaine lettuce, lemon juice, Parmesan cheese and some croutons. Some places may include anchovies, crushed garlic, olive oil, salt and black pepper, Worcestershire sauce, bacon and capers. You might come across a chicken Caesar salad. You might have the lettuce all cut up or you might get a few whole leaves. Whatever the case, we can usually recognize a Caesar salad when we see one.

All this time, I assumed that the Caesar salad (for whatever reason) was named after Julius Caesar, the Roman general, Consul and later dictator of the ancient Roman empire. He’s the guy that you might know from the William Shakespeare play and while other Roman notables also had “Caesar” as part of their names, Julius is perhaps the best known. And we would be completely incorrect in attributing the Caesar salad name to the (in)famous Roman.

As I somewhat randomly learned a few days ago, the Caesar salad is actually attributed to man named Caesar Cardini. Originally from Italy, he immigrated to Mexico where he opened a number of restaurants. He also had restaurants in the United States. We’ll take this story with a grain of salt (and a dash of pepper), but apparently it was during a Fourth of July celebration in 1924 that Cardini found his kitchen was running low on supplies and ingredients.

He had to do what he could with what he had on hand. To make the dish seem more exciting than it really was, he prepared his “Caesar salad” table-side. This salad tossing “by the chef” is a tradition that is still upheld to this day in certain restaurants.

Do you have an interesting food (name) story to share? I’d love to hear it.