Mid-Century Food - Julia's Caesar

I like every other English speaking media aware person on the planet am currently obsessed with Mad Men. Yes the story line is good, intriguing, but Hock and I are more obsessed with the props, the wardrobes and the food, and gasp, the glassware.

Mid-century furniture has been hip for sometime now, with eames chairs and the like fetching in the thousands, yet to make a serious come back is 1950s food.

But I'm doing my bit.

I made for the first time in my life today, a proper caesar salad. I ate today for the first time in my life a proper caesar salad and I'm glad to report it was delightful, moorish and easy. In fact it's so satisfyingly simple it's hard to imagine that this was the greatest salad of its time, but like most things its simplicity is key to its greatness.

I found the recipe here at a site simply called "No anchovies in caesar", a single web page with an excerpt and recipe from Julia Child's Kitchen book, which explains why the kerfuffle.

One of my early remembrances of restaurant life was going to Tijuana in 1925 or 1926 with my parents, who were wildly excited that they should finally lunch at Caesar's restaurant. Tijuana, just south of the Mexican border from San Diego, was flourishing then, in the prohibition era. People came down from the Los Angeles area in droves to eat in the restaurants; they drank forbidden beer and cocktails as they toured the bars of the town; they strolled in the flowered patio of Agua Caliente listening to the marimba band, and they gambled wickedly at the casino. Word spread about Tijuana and the good life, and about Caesar Cardini's restaurant, and about Caesar's salad.

My parents, of course, ordered the salad. Caesar himself rolled the big cart up to the table, tossed the romaine in a great wooden bowl, and I wish I could say I remember his every move, but I don't. The only thing I see again clearly is the eggs. I can see him break 2 eggs over that romaine and roll them in, the greens going all creamy as the eggs flowed over them. Two eggs in a salad? Two one-minute coddled eggs? And garlic-flavored croutons, and grated Parmesan cheese? It was a sensation from coast to coast, and there were even rumblings of its success in Europe.

How could a mere salad cause such emotion? But, one remembers, that was way back in 1924, when Caesar Cardini invented it, and it was only in the early twenties that refrigerated transcontinental transportation came into being. Before then, when produce was out of season in the rest of the country, there was no greenery to be had. Before then, too, salads were considered rather exotic, definitely foreign, probably Bolshevist, and, anyway, food only for sissies.

I transported all the ingredients to the table and made it a la Julia's instructions. Hock reprimanded my poor salad tossing technique. I nearly forgot to take a photo. We nearly licked our plates clean.



    We lead such weirdly parallel lives: I too have succumbed to the furniture porno that is Mad Men.


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