Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Battle of Caesar

Whinging is an excellent past time. Sometimes, these whinges are of a high enough calibre to be broadcast to society at large in the Sydney Morning Herald. This piece of my own self-indulgent vitriol was published in the SMH on 28.12.2009. This is the unedited original:


Some things are sacred, untouchable. The Egyptian Pyramids, perhaps. Maybe even Stonehenge. Definitely Caesar Salad. Time-honoured, beloved, and delicious, it is omnipresent and deservedly so. The flipside of this is that some heretics have begun experimenting with the very definition of a Caesar Salad, taking it to places unwarranted, insulting, and criminally tasteless.

Such was my experience at a recent Pitt St café. Let us be upfront from the start; my dining establishment of choice was not a recipient of any Michelin stars. It probably wouldn’t even be on the Food Authority’s safe list. Which makes it all the more incredulous for the chef to be taking liberties with an established recipe.

Now I’m not unequivocally averse to interpretation, as long as the basic structure is there. This offending item, however, lacked that rather customary ingredient of Caesar Salad: Caesar dressing. Instead, the scantily supplied liquid resembled some sort of hideous blend between honey mustard and tzatziki.

The best Caesars avoid such dressing pitfalls altogether by using egg mayonnaise. This is in fact the only contribution my mother, otherwise a Microwave Matriarch, has ever made to the world of cuisine. The creators of the Pitt St disaster would have been better off ducking down to Woolies for a jar of Praise than attempting whatever concoction this was supposed to represent.

If only that were the worst of it. Unless one is five and the dish is Fruit Loops, plates of food should generally not feature all the colours of the rainbow. One of the many joys of Caesar Salad is that it is almost wholly green and white, containing much lettuce, some croutons, egg (perhaps a little yellow) and possibly chicken or even bacon. The resulting colour scheme is one of tranquillity and healthiness.

Thus I was shocked, and also appalled, at the veritable patchwork quilt which arrived masquerading as Caesar. This alien version contained cucumber (so far still green), tomato (hmmm) and carrots. There I was wearing fluro-orange shoes and I still managed to be out-coloured by a Caesar Salad.

A short while ago I sampled the offerings available at an iconic Crows Nest café. This abhorrent variation contained salmon. Ah yes, fish. In a Caesar Salad. It should be illegal. And yet there it was, being publically advertised and commercially traded. When I’m dictator, there will be severe and ironic punishments for those who deviate from the respected Caesar norm; perhaps death by avocado stoning or being glassed with a shrimp cocktail.

How does this sort of heresy happen? For starters, we have an obsession with reinvention. This works well for politics and Madonna, but not for classic salads. So let’s make a collective pact to leave the seafood and the strawberries out and stick with the Caesar staples.



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