Ruminations and recipes from a small kitchen in a big city.


I came, I saw, I ordered Caesar salad.

Caesar salad never goes away. I'm sure that some chefs wish it would; like seafood cocktail and chateaubriand, but it will probably stay right on the menu as long as people like me keep ordering it.

I have eaten Caesar salads all over town, most often at the kinds of lunch places that aren't quite as good as high class restaurants and aren't quite as bad as greasy diners. You see them up and down St Kilda Road. People in suits tear in, bolt their lunch and tear out again. Except on Fridays when everyone is a little more relaxed. I order Caesar salad almost by default. It's the acid test of a good lunchtime eatery.

Most Caesar salads around town are pretty ordinary; occasionally they are excellent and every now and then you strike one that is truly appalling, such as the one I ordered in a cafe in Bourke Place, the busy food court down the legal end of town. Whatever green remained in the rust-edged lettuce leaves failed to show through the grey oozing mass that wasn't mayonnaise any more. There was no crunch left in the leaves. They were transparent and soft, like when you accidentally freeze a lettuce. Beneath this mess were some soft, gelatinous particles, which closer inspection revealed to be the remains of bacon after someone in the kitchen had earlier apparently removed the flesh, possibly to prepare someone's breakfast toasted bacon and egg sandwich. The fatty rind, roughly chopped, ended up in the salad along with last Monday's lettuce bin leftovers. This appalling concoction was finished off with a dozen cold, wet, soft bits of old toast pretending to be croutons and not fooling anyone. They were wet because of the fat. You know there's too much fat in a crouton when you bite into it and the fat oozes out. It was cold and rancid. It was the worst Caesar salad ever assembled in the history of the entire world. I should know.

But while that Caesar salad was truly horrible, I noticed that it followed what seems to be a kind of weird unwritten rule of bad Caesar salads in restaurants. On the menu, it was misspelled 'Ceasar salad'. Wherever I have eaten a bad Caesar salad, they always get the name wrong. Why? I don't know.

It might be Caesar's revenge.


lucette said...

Bad spelling = an I-don't-care attitude?
I believe I've had an American version of that bad Caesar salad.

Dr. Alice said...

That description was so vivid I gagged when I read it. (I think that's a compliment.)

I like Caesar salad too, but what bugs me is when the restaurant wants to gild the lily and load it up with protein like chicken or shrimp. A good Caesar salad does not need that.

kitchen hand said...

Lucette, seems bad Caesar salads stalk the world!

Dr. Alice, I agree. Chicken Caesar salad is just wrong.