Fourth of July is also the anniversary of the Caesar Salad.
It was the Fourth of July, 1924.
Caesar Cardini had a rush on his restaurant in Tijuana. People had come down from LA and San Diego to escape Prohibition and be able to celebrate with a few brewskis.
Caesar ran out of just about everything. His daughter Rosa (she died only nine years ago), said that her dad invented the dish on this day when the rush of customers reduced his kitchen supplies to almost zero. He just grabbed whole romaine lettuce leaves, olive oil, lemon juice, croutons, a coddled egg, Worcestershire sauce, and black pepper.
And he kinda made a virtue of necessity by making a big play of tossing and serving the salad tableside.
But how would he react if he saw how his salad had evolved – 88 years later - to this?
This is a Caesar’s Salad?
“This is my Caesar Salad,” says José Figueroa.
I meet him at a visitors’ day at the Culinary Art School in Tijuana where he has been studying.
"This is my tribute to Caesar Cardini, the great gastronomic inventor. He took liberties with whatever materials he had and created a masterpiece back then. Now I am doing a little bit the same today.”
Would Caesar go along? Or would he rise up in his grave and utter "Et tu, José?"
BTW: We can still have the real thing at Caesar's Hotel restaurant (1079 Avenida Revolución, downtown Tijuana, near 5th Steet, tel 011.52.664.685-1606, or 011.52.664.688-0449), where the price is still pretty good, and they do toss and prepare your salad table-side, exactly as Caesar himself did for the first time, 88 years ago today.