Monday, February 28th 2022

Wait—Caesar Salad is Mexican Food?

Written by

Rafael Bracho

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Origins of the Caesar Salad

We’ve all tried a Caesar salad, but did you know that it was invented in Mexico? That’s right. Caesar Salad is Mexican food. When we think of Mexican cuisine, we imagine tamales de mole and quesadillas, but we don’t necessarily think of Caesar salad. Why?

In this article, we explore what a Caesar salad is, the history of how it came to be from Mexico, and the man who first created it. Also, we consider other theories as to the origins of the Caesar salad.

What Is A Caesar Salad?

Origins of the Caesar Salad

For all intents and purposes, a Caesar salad dressing is a simple mayonnaise dressing. That is to say, that at its base is an emulsion of olive oil, egg yolk, and an acid. A chemist would say that egg yolk is rich in surfactants—molecules with two ends that attach to oil, as well as aqueous (water-based) components

Of course, a true Caesar salad dressing isn’t whipped as ferociously, thus, ending up thinner than a mayonnaise. However, it is thick enough to stick to the ingredients of the salad. That’s how you can tell a cheaper Caesar salad dressing from a traditional one: cheap dressings just start off using mayonnaise as a base instead of whipping it lightly themselves.

In the case of Caesar salad, this dressing is served over a romaine lettuce, and then accompanied by some form of toasted or fried bread called a “crouton”. Then, it’s topped with grated parmesan cheese. Lastly, Caesar salads are very popular, especially when served with chicken or shrimp.

What’s In Caesar Salad Dressing?

Origins of the Caesar Salad

The key ingredient to a Caesar salad is anchovy paste. Then garlic, dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, and lime juice are added to a bowl.

Then, egg white is removed from an egg shell, and the pure yolk is poured into the bowl. Afterward, olive oil is drizzled over the mixture slowly, until it’s distributed evenly and the emulsification is complete.

*To watch a video of the original Caesar salad being made, click here.

Who Created the Caesar Salad Dressing?

Origins of the Caesar Salad

The Caesar salad is generally attributed to Caesar Cardini, a restaurateur in Tijuana. Like today, Tijuana would be filled with expats—mostly Americans seeking to escape the nation’s strict alcohol restrictions during the Prohibition of alcohol.

According to Caesar’s daughter Rose, on the 4th of July rush of 1924, the kitchen’s contents were depleted. Using the few ingredients at hand, Caesar Cardini created the salad dressing on the fly, using a festive “table-side” presentation. (Later versions added the key ingredient of anchovy paste, which was not present in the original recipe).

This story has become the dominant theory, and Julia Child claimed to have eaten at Caesar’s in the 20s when she was a child. Even this day and age, expats flock to Caesar’s Restaurant in Tijuana: The Home of the Original Caesar Salad. Also, Cardini’s Caesar Dressing is one of the most popular brands today, and it's still sold around the world.

However, his brother claimed to have actually invented the salad (who became a successful restaurateur in his own right—as did just about every employee he ever had.

*To find Caesar’s Restaurant in Tijuana, click here.

Who Was Caesar Cardini?

Origins of the Caesar Salad

Caesar Cardini was an Italian born in February of 1896, on the shores of Lago Maggiore—a body of water dividing the border of Italy with Switzerland. He was born on the Italian side. A child of eight, Caesar traveled to America, arriving May Day, 1913 at the port of Ellis Island in New York, where he would travel to Montreal.

For the next several years, Cardini traveled back and forth between Italy and the American continent until finally arriving in California in 1919. He managed Brown’s restaurant in Sacramento for a time, then finally settled down in San Diego, California.

Though residing in San Diego, he opened his own restaurant in Tijuana, Mexico to avoid Prohibition Laws active in the United States at that time. As the years passed, the United States loosened its laws on alcohol, and Mexico tightened its laws on gambling, Caesar Cardini slowly closed his Mexican restaurants.

Instead focusing on bottling his Caesar salad dressing at their factory in Los Angeles He had trademarked the salad dressing in 1948. He died in early November of 1956.

Competing Theories about the Caesar Salad

Origins of the Caesar Salad

We’ve already mentioned that there was a dispute within the family as to who first invented the Caesar salad dressing. Some debate whether his brother, Alessandro, actually created the now-famous salad. Ultimately, history has granted both brothers a shared credit for the creation of this delicious dressing.

However, many historians doubt the claim that Caesar salad is Mexican food. Afterall, Caesar Cardini was an Italian immigrant—himself, an expat to America. Were it not for his background in Italian cuisine (and Swiss cuisine), he would never have been able to create the Caesar salad dressing.

Also, he only had restaurants in Mexico. Cardini lived in San Diego. For this reason, many historians claim that Caesar salad is an American invention. It was popularized by the climate of cultural exchange that typified the United States at that time: chiefly being, a welcoming, melting pot of ideas.

<u>However, no one disputes that the Caesar salad was created in Tijuana, Mexico</u>.


Origins of the Caesar Salad

It’s impossible to say whether or not Caesar salad is American, Italian, or a part of Mexican cuisine. Like myself, Caesar Cardini, and his brother Alessandro, were children of two cultures.

However, we can all agree that due to its deliciousness, it’s achieved a popularity that far surpasses any individual legacy. So, no matter where in the world you’re traveling, why not have a Caesar salad today.

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