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Nov 24, 2003 04:27 PM

Whole-leaf Caesar salads -- proper way to eat?

  • c

When a Caesar is served as whole leaves of romaine coated with dressing, is the proper way to eat it by using your hands, picking up each individual leaf and eating it like a rabbit? I never saw this until last night in a restaurant.

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  1. I find that all the non-professional cooking magazines
    Gourmet, Bon Appetit, etc have gotten more into 'lite' and 'easy' recipes over the last few years. I find this disappointing, since I don't read these magazines for quick and easy recipes, but rather for recipes to make when I want to go all out.

    Around 15 years ago I bought a whole stack of old Gourmet magazines from the early 60's at a stoop sale, for 10 cents each. One of them reviewed a Vietnamese restaurant, which was, I think, in Midtown Manhattan. First they had to explain where Vietnam was. Then, in describing the food they mentioned 'nuoc mam' which they simply defined as the Vietnamese equivalent of soy sauce, with no mention of fermented fish, or fish at all. It was kind of funny, but a good illustration of how tastes have changed.

    I especially enjoy reading recipes in old issues of "ladies magazines" such as Woman's Day, Redbook, etc. They really show how cooking and tastes in food have changed. The oldest ones are for plain American food, but real food, not relying on mixes and prepared products. Then "ethnic" recipes started to be included, but kind of 'blanded down'. A recipe for Pesto from Good Houskeeping in the early 1980's, for example, called for basil, olive oil, cheese, and pine nuts or walnuts if pine nuts weren't available. NO GARLIC! Lately everything seems to be for either 'lite' or quick and easy, recipes taking 30 minutes or less, or with 5 ingredients or less,and or calling for lots of prepared food which I find depressing.

    I once read somewhere that most people who cook regularly for themselves and their families have 10 or so recipes that they make regularly. Sometimes a new recipe is tested, and added to the rotation. I do the same thing for myself, and don't need to read a recipe to cook these things. But I do make them from scratch, that way I know what I am eating and know it will taste good because it is made the way I like it.

    3 Replies
    1. re: ruth arcone
      Caitlin McGrath

      Older editions of the Joy of Cooking are also interesting in this regard, especially because they include "ethnic" recipes that were just not known here--risotto in the 50s and so on--and also ones for regional American dishes that, if still eaten at all, are rarely homemade, like scrapple, pickled pigs' feet, etc. Also, the fruit and veggie sections actually discuss and describe exotic items that have only become available in the US in the past two decades or so.

      For those in the western part of the country, old Sunset magazines are interesting reading; they really frequently introduced new ethnic recipes at a time when they seemed quite exotic. Sunset also goes "light" now, and has many fewer recipes than it did. All sorts of special, "project" (meaning time-consuming)foods were part of my childhood because of Sunset.

      1. re: ruth arcone

        My opinion during the long period that I subscribed to Gourmet was that generally the recipes were needlessly complicated, packed with trendy and hard to get ingredients. But I'm a food purist. I figure there's a point of diminishing return, beyong which additional ingredients are less likely to enhance a dish than muddle it. It always seemed that the menus would work only for someone who didn't work, had household help, or both.

        Thanks to the "liteness" trend, I hardly ever buy food magazines. The only original part about the recipes is that they leave out all the important ingredients and steps. Stir-fry in a tablespoon of water. Right.

        1. re: ruth arcone

          I have an old Gourmet from 1954 that I found in a junk store. There is a letter to the editor asking what a bagel is and how to eat or cut it, I can't remember!

        2. According to Julia Child, who tells the story of going to Caesar Cardini's restaurant in Tijuana as a child and being served the salad by Caesar himself, that's the way it's supposed to be done.