Caesar salad is probably the most popular salad among others. It is made with ingredients such as lemon juice, olive oil, egg, Worcestershire sauce, anchovies, Parmesan cheese, black pepper, garlic, and Dijon mustard. It is almost everyone’s favorite when it comes to salads, but have you ever wondered how and where the very first Caesar salad was made and served?
It’s true that discovering the surprising origin of the food we love feels great especially when we see that there’s more behind it even though we think we know it so well. If you’re also curious about the origins of Caesar salad, then read on because we are going to tell you about its interesting history.
Some might think that Caesar salad must have been named for Julius Caesar or maybe he was the one who invented it. But Caesar salads have no connection whatsoever to Julius Caesar or any of the Caesars who ruled Rome.
The creation of Caesar salad is generally attributed to an Italian immigrant and restaurateur named Caesar Cardini who operated restaurants in Mexico and the United States. Caesar Cardini migrated to North America in the 1910s. Later on, he made his way to San Diego where he operated a French restaurant in a building on University Avenue. However, in 1920, Congress enacted prohibition across the United States. Cardini kept his business in San Diego but he opened a new restaurant across border in Tijuana where he could serve alcohol.
According to legend, Cardini invented Caesar salad in 1924 in his restaurant in Tijuana, Mexico. Based on his daughter Rosa, it was on July 4, 1924, when her father created the Caesar salad. It was when their kitchen’s supplies depleted, and to solve the shortage of foods to serve, Cardini threw together a bunch of ingredients he had on hand and served his concoction to his friends. And that improvised dish caught on even though it was originally intended as a finger food than a salad and prepared tableside for flair.
According to What’s Cooking America, the original recipe of Caesar salad included romaine, garlic, croutons, Parmesan cheese, boiled egg, olive oil, and Worcestershire sauce. There are also several disagreements on the story and some claim that it was not Caesar Cardini who invented the salad but his brother Alex.
In 1926, Alex came to Tijuana to help his brother with the restaurant. Then one night, a group of American airmen from Rockwell Field Air Base in San Diego partied at Caesar’s. As a fellow pilot, Alex wanted to create a delicious treat for them that’s why he put together a finger food from the best ingredients he could find in the restaurant’s kitchen. He used many of the same things in Caesar’s salad but he added anchovies. He called that version the Aviator’s salad in honor of those he had made it for. That version of the salad was well-received that it became the standard and was later on renamed as the Caesar salad.
But that’s not all, because there’s another story claiming that it wasn’t a Cardini who invented the salad but Livio Santini who was an employee at Caesar’s restaurant. Livio was also an Italian immigrant and he said that Caesar’s salad was his mother’s recipe. It’s just that the salad became so popular that Cardini claimed it as his own.
But no matter what the exact origin story is, what certain is that the salad gained popularity at Caesar’s Tijuana establishment and it also became a tourist attraction on its very own. Julia Child, a famed chef, shared that she had eaten a Caesar salad at Cardini’s restaurant when she was younger. She even included in her book titled “From Julia Child’s Kitchen”, her family’s highly anticipated lunch at that restaurant back in the 1920s. She said that during that time, it was a sensation of a salad from coast to coast and there were even rumblings about its success in Europe.
Caesar salad became so popular that in 1948, Caesar had to patent his recipe. In 1953, the Caesar Salad was named as the greatest recipe to originate in the Americas in the last half-century by the Paris’ International Society of Epicure.
In the present time, Caesar salad is being served everywhere and it is even made at home as well. Aside from that, more than a dozen varieties of bottled Cardini’s dressing are available today and they are made with different ingredients as well. But if you really want to taste the original Caesar salad, then maybe one day you can pay Caesar’s Restaurant in Tijuana a visit and have a taste of history.