Caesar salad, 100 years of being a symbol of social identity

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It is on the menu of many of the best restaurants in the world. The Caesar salad was born 100 years ago in Tijuana, Baja California, in the restaurant owned by the Italian immigrant Cesare Cardini (he changed it to Caesar), who had his first establishment in the Callejón del Travieso

It was the 1920s, during the prohibition in the United States and Aunt Juana’s old ranch was beginning to fill up with bars and restaurants, where Hollywood stars and gangsters came in search of fun.

Cesare Cardini (1896-1956) first migrated to the United States. When the prohibition came, he looked for a place in Tijuana and in 1920 he moved his business.

There are several versions about who really invented the famous lettuce-based salad, but what is not up for discussion is its importance as a gastronomic creation appreciated throughout the world.

A file in the hands of the Ministry of Culture – which will soon declare it intangible cultural heritage – contains the most accepted version, that of Rosa, Cardini’s daughter: on July 4, 1924, dozens of Americans crossed into Tijuana to celebrate their country’s independence.

The restaurants were packed and Chef Cardini ran out of kitchen supplies. He resorted to inventiveness, working with what he had on hand. He covered some long lettuce leaves with a dressing he prepared with egg yolk, olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, Parmesan cheese, salt, black pepper, anchovies and some crispy slices of bread.

To entertain his diners, he made the mixture in front of them, as is still the custom today in the famous Caesar’s restaurant-bar, located on Revolución Avenue. Cardini left the alley and in 1927 set up shop on the most famous street in the city, the Revu, precisely where the story continues today.

Several years later, he returned to the United States. The restaurant opened and closed intermittently. And in the darkest years of the city’s recent history (2008-2010) the premises were rented for table dancing.

The rescue of the dish as a Tijuana tradition was initiated by the Plascencia family (2010), owners of the Caesar’s restaurant that is now the home of the famous salad. In February 2024, Julián and Javier Plascencia requested, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary, that it be considered intangible cultural heritage.

The State Heritage Council is waiting for the corresponding municipal body to give its approval – after a process in which all interested parties were summoned – to do the same, reported the Secretary of Culture of Baja California, Alma Delia Ábrego.

The celebrations began yesterday, today a book will be presented with the history of the salad and the vicissitudes of the place that houses the restaurant, and there will be a music festival and tasting dinners.

The city will celebrate its 135th anniversary on July 11, and the salad is a symbol of social identity that was helped by actress Rita Hayworth, who tried the dish while passing through Tijuana and brought the recipe to California, said the state official.

Source: jornada