Caesar salad, take 2

I didn’t expect to spend this much space on Caesar Salad, but in the interest of presenting correct information, here it is again. Maybe some of you have already looked at the photo and noticed the difference between last week’s Caesar Salad and this one — whole romaine leaves.

Gary Beck, food writer and restaurant critic in Puerto Vallarta, brought to my attention, after seeing last week’s post (and maybe saying to himself, “Hmm…. should I set her straight or not?”) that Caesar Salad was originally served in a whole leaf form by the Cardini brothers, Caesar and Alex. My salad had the leaves torn, and was intended to be eaten with a fork only, while Gary enjoys eating whole leaves with a fork and knife. In the interest of tradition and culinary history, I’m making it again, using only whole leaves from the romaine hearts and enjoying it again.

Russ had already settled himself down with one of his favorite TV shows (American Pickers, where vintage Americana collectibles are searched out, items that should either be in a museum or a junk pile) when I gave him a whole leaf salad, with a knife, and no preamble. Would I see his eyebrow arch when something doesn’t look like he’s used to seeing something look? Without missing a beat, he dug in. With his fingers. Knife untouched.

Russ instinctively knew what he was doing. After a little bit of internet reading I learned that, yes, Gary was correct. The Cardini brothers used whole leaves of romaine lettuce hearts, and expected the salad to be eaten by hand, each leaf picked up and nibbled down. But after customers complained of oily, cheesey, fishy fingers, they switched to torn leaves.

Whole leaf or torn, knife or not, this salad has history, and ranks as Mexico’s most famous salad. I enjoyed eating it with my fingers today. Keep a paper napkin close.

For an interesting read, check out BBC’s article on the history of Caesar Salad, and this one from The Daily Meal.

Those of you who enjoy the fine restaurants in Puerto Vallarta may be interested in Gary Beck’s book, Beck’s Best, a guide to dining in the Puerto Vallarta area. For an updated 2021 copy, email Gary at: garyrbeck1@yahoo.com

8 thoughts on “Caesar salad, take 2

    1. Yes, it does seem strange. Of course, there is a strong Italian connection, as the creators of this salad, the Cardini brothers, were from Italy. Another explanation may be that Mexican cuisine does not put much emphasis on salads, perhaps because eating raw vegetables can be risky if the vegetables are not first disinfected wirh solutions, such as Microdyn. This is now a common practice in Mexico, but in the past, it was safer to cook vegetables, and that practice may have become established in eating habits here.
      Thank you for your comment.

  1. Miss Vicki

    The history is interesting and the salad has taken on a life of its own since it originated in Mexico. Caesar Salad has been a favorite of mine for 50+ years. The first time I had the salad was in a posh restaurant in San Francisco. It was prepared table-side by the waiter. Leaves were torn, not chopped or cut, dressing was made at the table using a fresh egg and other ingredients, and of course dressed with anchovies, cheese, and croutons. I’ve had it dozens of ways … half a grilled Romain served with thin slices of Parmesan cheese, freshly made croutons, and anchovies, and the original with whole leaves. Good article, Kathleen.

  2. Linda

    And another take on this would be to cut the romaine head in half lengthwise, salt, pepper, olive oil and grill it. Use the usual dressing and serve with toast triangles. The grilled lettuce is delish.

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