History of Thousand Island Dressing

Thousand Island dressing is one of the most popular salad dressings. It is an American salad dressing and condiment that is based on mayonnaise. It can include lemon juice, orange juice, olive oil, paprika, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce, mustard, vinegar cream, chili sauce, ketchup or tomato puree. Aside from that, it also usually contains finely chopped ingredients such as onions, pickles, boiled egg, parsley, garlic, and bell peppers.

Thousand Island dressing is widely used in fast-food restaurants and diners in the United States. It is sometimes called special sauce or secret sauce. It is also used by popular fast food restaurants such as In-N-Out Burger in their secret menu items and McDonald’s in their Big Mac. Thousand Island is indeed a popular dressing not just for salads but for other foods as well. But have you ever wondered where it came from and how it was first made?

If you’re one of those who love Thousand Island dressing on their salads and burgers, then you might also want to know its history. No worries because we’re here to tell you all about the history of Thousand Island dressing.

Origins of Thousand Island Dressing

Based on the Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink, the name of the dressing came from the Thousand Islands region that is situated along the upper St. Lawrence River between Canada and the United States. There’s one common version of the dressing’s origins within that region that says a fishing guide’s wife named Sophia LaLonde, made the condiment as part of her husband George’s shore dinner. In this version, actress May Irwin requested the recipe after enjoying it and in turn, she gave it to another.

There’s another version of the origins of Thousand Island dressing. It was in 1894 when Georg Boldt, a Thousand Island summer resident who built Boldt Castle between 1900 and 1904 and the proprietor of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, instructed Oscar Tschirky, the hotel’s maître d’hotel, to put the dressing on the menu because he forgot dressing on salads and improvised with what ingredients were available during that time.

According to a 1959 National Geographic Article, Thousand Island dressing was developed by Boldt’s chef. There were claims that he was involved in the introduction of the dressing at the Waldorf but chef Tschirky did not mention the salad dressing in his cookbook that was published during that time.

In 2010, Michael Bell, a sociologist from the University of Wisconsin, along with his graduate students, attempted to determine the origin of Thousand Island dressing. Based on their study, they found out that the story differed among villages and islands in the Thousand Islands region. Aside from that, they also discovered that there’s a third origin story about the dressing. The third origin story states that the original recipe was based upon French dressing and it was supported by a recipe published in the 11th edition of The Fannie Farmer Cookbook in 1965. All of the claims were based upon oral traditions without supporting records.

Based on Food and Wine magazine, Thousand Island dressing was a traditional sauce from the late 19th century in the Thousand Islands region. They stated that there was a wealthy who visited the region and carried bottles of the local sauce back to New York City and one variant of that was found in Clayton, New York called Sophia’s Sauce. That sauce was found at the Herald Hotel run by Sophia LaLonde, the innkeeper.

But there are also some food writers who claim that Thousand Island dressing was invented by Theo Rooms, a chef from the Blackstone Hotel in Chicago during the same time period. Based on food historians from the Food Timeline, the earliest print references to Thousand Island dressing appear in 1912. And the recipes for different versions of the dressing begin to appear after that throughout the United States.

There’s also a dressing that is similar to Thousand Islands and it’s called Rhode Island dressing. It’s introduced by Tore Wretman, a Swedish restaurateur. It has a confusing name for foreigners because its origin is also unclear and the dressing does not have any relationship to Rhode Island and it is also not used for similar preparations outside Sweden.

In the present time, Thousand Island dressing is no longer associated with the culinary elite. It’s because we can now easily buy the dressing in stores and even create it on our own.