It’s Not Just America’s Birthday: Happy 100th, Caesar Salad

Erin O'Flynn/Daily Beast/Getty Images
Erin O'Flynn/Daily Beast/Getty Images

It’s not just America celebrating its birthday. Just across the border, the world’s most famous salad is marking its centenary.

While America parties with fireworks, hot dogs and apple pie, there’s a fiesta going on in Tijuana, Mexico this week, marking the 100th anniversary of Italian immigrant Cesare Cardini’s greatest creation.

Using leftover ingredients, the first Caesar salad is believed to have been served on July 4, 1924, at Cardini’s restaurant, Caesar’s Place.

Entertaining a horde of hungry and thirsty Californians who had crossed the border during prohibition, Cardini threw together a salad using whole Romaine leaves, garlic-flavored oil, Worcestershire sauce, lemons, eggs, and Parmesan cheese.

Cesare Cardini in a kitchen in front of cooking implements in black and white image
WikiMedia Commons

From that hot summer night, the Caesar salad conquered the world. By 1953, the Caesar was crowned “the greatest recipe to originate in the Americas in the past 50 years” by the International Society of Epicures in Paris.

Tijuana is honoring the Caesar salad centenary this week with a four-day food and wine festival featuring chefs from around the world including Jose Andrés and the unveiling of a statue of Cardini. Caesar’s, the restaurant Cardini opened a few years after the salad's inception, continues to toss up to 300 Caesar salads daily.

Why the popularity and longevity? “It satisfies us in many hedonistic ways, while we can still feel virtuous. It is, after all, a salad,” according to Beth Forrest, a professor of liberal arts and applied food studies at the Culinary Institute of America told the Associated Press.

An elevated Caesar salad

About 35% of U.S. restaurants feature Caesar salad on their menus and nearly 43 million bottles of Caesar salad dressing were sold in the U.S. over the past year, the AP reported, and Caesar Cardini’s recipe is still being sold.

Over the years, many attempts have been made to change Cardini’s simple formula, adding everything from pig ear to tequila to crème fraîche and even removing the Romaine.

“We are living through an age of unchecked Caesar-salad fraud,” Ellen Cushing wrote in The Atlantic in April under the headline “Something Weird is Happening with Caesar Salads.”

Cushing attacked wannabe Caesars that “are missing anchovies, or croutons, or even lettuce.”

“The Caesar is forever, which means it’s forever being manipulated,” she wrote. “For better and for worse.”

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