Sunday, September 20, 2009


Well, maybe that's not true. Caesar Salad became popular because so many people liked it and that won't change with the closure of the original Caesar's restaurant in Tijuana, Mexico, this week.

But I, for one, am sorry that gang violence, the recession, and fear of swine flu have kept Americans from going south of the border to taste the original Caesar Salad. When I lived near San Diego--only six years ago--I went there several times, usually when our house guests from other places wanted to go to Tijuana to buy expensive prescription drugs at cheaper prices. We'd drive to the border, park on the U.S. side and walk across, then bus to the main street of town where pharmacies almost outnumbered the sidewalk hustlers who offered us hand-made toys, woven scarves and silver jewelry. Our friends would buy their drugs, using their own doctor's prescription (or one from the handy Mexican doctor in the back room) and then we'd go to Caesar's for lunch.

One of the perks of being there in person was that they gave us a business card with the original salad recipe printed on the back. This was important to me because--thanks to an article in our local newspaper which listed hot sauce as an ingredient in "traditional Caesar Salad"--I had researched the topic. Many of my cookbooks gave recipes for the salad, and all were different, but I found a book which told its history. (This was before Wikipedia.) Caesar Cardini was an Italian who emigrated to Mexico around 1918 and opened a restaurant. His brother Alex, who flew airplanes during WWI, joined him several years later and put together Romaine lettuce, croutons, a one-minute egg, lemon juice and Parmesan cheese, and tossed it with his brother's salad dressing. No hot sauce and no anchovies.

Because American flyers stationed in San Diego went to Tijuana often and loved the salad, it came to be known as "Aviators' Salad," but later simply Caesar's Salad, since one could only get it there. I remember my first one at a fancy restaurant where the waiter (as they still did in Tijuana six years ago) would put it together and toss it at your table if at least two people ordered it. Now, of course, you can get some version of it almost everywhere, even McDonald's. Except that these imitators invariably cut the Romaine in pieces, whereas the original used whole leaves.

I still have that business card from "Caesar's Palace," and if you want the entire recipe for four persons, with exact amounts of all ingredients, leave a comment. Meanwhile, raise your glass in a toast to Caesar while enjoying the most famous salad in the country.

Sunday, September 6, 2009


Like everyone else this week, I'm shocked and dismayed over the news that, after eighteen years, a little girl, kidnapped at age eleven, has finally been found and returned to her family.

Many years ago, my son was kidnapped by my ex-husband, and I went through a terrible ordeal until he was returned. But my experience pales before what Jaycee's mother must have endured. To say nothing of what happened to Jaycee: raped, forced to live in a shack, bear two children, never allowed to go to school or see a doctor. It's outrageous and totally beyond words.

In these times, when a meddling neighbor will sometimes yell, "child abuse," if she sees a mother grab her child too tightly, how could this travesty go unnoticed?

I've read that, in 2006, a neighbor did report seeing children in the backyard of this registered sex offender's house; but the police who came never even went into the backyard to investigate. Do I detect a lawsuit in the future? In my opinion, I should. I don't like ambulance-chasing lawyers or frivolous litigation, but this case screams for retribution, if only to send a strong message to those we trust to keep us--and our children--safe.

In the musical I'm currently rehearsing for, we sing, "Tragedy tomorrow - Comedy tonight!" But I'm finding it hard to keep the tears out of my voice this week. I hope there'll be Comedy Tomorrow.