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You Don't Make Friends With Salad 

This Letter to the Editor reviews the origin of the Caesar salad in response to last week's Chow article.

Last winter at a dinner with a group of Canadian friends in the Mexican town where we winter, a couple of us opted to order the "Chicken Caesar Salad" on the menu. One diner, who had quaffed several shots of some excellent Tequila exuberantly declared, "Do you know where the Caesar salad was invented?"  As it happened, I did know, but he didn't wait for me to answer and with a triumphant smile announced, "In Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas."  I had heard this myth many times before, including from members of my own family who have lived in Las Vegas for decades.  I simply couldn't let it pass.

Perhaps I was a wee bit condescending but I pointed out that the Caesar salad was invented in Caesar's Restaurant in Tijuana in the late 1940s when Tijuana was a hot spot for Hollywood players and newspaper reporters.  And the original did not contain chicken.  In fact, I pointed out, the only similarity to an authentic Caesar salad and the one on this menu was the romaine lettuce. Actually, my Canadian friend took my "correction" rather well. The fact that I was able to report that I had attended the opening night of Caesar's Palace with my brother who worked there decades after the Caesar salad was invented, must have impressed him.

I discovered the salad in Craig Clairborne's New York Times Cookbook sometime in the mid 1960s when I was in Graduate School at UCLA.  My modifications include no longer using the wooden bowl (I don't have one-it went with the baggage of my first marriage), and I boil the egg for one minute.  Anchovies are always included, as are the few drops of Louisiana hot sauce from the original recipe.  I have rarely had a failure, except when I have had too many pre-preparatory libations, which affected my judgment and motor skills.

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