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Legend has it that a Chicago chef named Giacomo Junia tossed the first Caesar salad in 1903, naming it after Julius Caesar, “the greatest Italian of all time,” per George Leonard Herter’s Bull Cook and Authentic Historical Recipes. Others attribute the crisp, tangy, multi-textured mix of romaine lettuce, anchovies, croutons, and what we now called Caesar dressing to Cesare “Caesar” Cardini, who, low on supplies after a busy night at his Tijuana restaurant, improvised a recipe that would become a hit. Still others say it was his brother, Alessandro “Alex” Cardini, who also claims to have invented the Caesar salad, though he called it the “aviator’s salad” as he’d allegedly prepped it while cooking for airmen.

So, who came up with the Caesar salad? After a brief bit of googling, I can confirm that I do not know. But here’s a beautiful bit of prose from Julia Child’s From Julia Child’s Kitchen, where she describes watching the former Cardini tossing his namesake menu item:

One of my early remembrances of restaurant life was going to Tijuana in 1925 or 1926 with my parents, who were wildly excited that they should finally lunch at Caesar’s restaurant. Tijuana, just south of the Mexican border from San Diego, was flourishing then, in the prohibition era. . . Words spread about Tijuana and the good life, and about Caesar Cardini’s restaurant, and about Caesar’s salad.

My parents, of course, ordered the salad. Caesar himself rolled the big cart up to the table, tossed the romaine in a great wooden bowl, and I wish I could say I remembered his every move, but I don’t. They only thing I see again clearly is the eggs. I can see him break 2 eggs over that romaine and roll them in, the greens going all creamy as the eggs flowed over them. Two eggs in a salad? Two one-minute coddled eggs? And garlic-flavored croutons, and grated Parmesan cheese? It was a sensation of a salad from coast to coast, and there were even rumblings of its success in Europe.

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What a sight, to say nothing of taste or texture. I’ve yet to find anything like it anywhere near the Gizmodo Media Group offices, located on the southern edge of New York’s Lower Compostable Salad Bowl District, a.k.a. central Midtown between 14th and 34th.

Just Salad is just salad, nothing to write home about, while the needlessly savory mix of faux artisanal vegetables you pile together at SweetGreen have soured the experience for me. Chop’t won’t even indulge in two extra letters, much less a Cardini-style spectacle of culinary delight. And Fresh & Co. is just so impersonal. All three are too expensive, charging anywhere from $10-15, depending on your protein. Their lines are also wild, requiring you to wait anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes during peak lunch rush hours to buy $10-15 bowl of compostable regret—just enough time to ponder whether the seemingly limitless choice presented by the quick-service salad establishment is yet another false set of options devised in the late capitalist age we call home that doesn’t give us choice but rather obscures how bereft of choice we truly are, fooling us into thinking we can solve structural issues and other things that ail us on a collective, top-down level by forming a consumer identity, seemingly unique to each one of us, individually, and making our purchases according to whatever set of values we’ve deluded ourselves into thinking we express every time we buy a bad salad that costs too much money.

Delis offer a reprieve from this neoliberal nightmare, and they cost a whole lot less. But the ingredients piled together at the build-your-own bars rarely take to one another, leaving every bite of a makeshift Caesar salad taste more like cherry tomatoes, romaine, parmesan, and croutons than the intended sum of its parts. Salad bars come in handy, like the one at Sun Sweet on Sixth Avenue, as they often serve a pre-made Caesar salad, which you can add strips of grilled chicken from the hot bar to. But, unless your timing is perfect, you’ll likely get there after it’s been soaking together for too long, leaving all of its ingredients droopy and wet, as if the salad had been crying over the state of itself.

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Tuesday’s romaine lettuce news cycle just added to my misery. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that a sizable portion of our romaine lettuce supply had been contaminated with E. coli, CNN reported, with 32 people infected in 11 states. They’ve warned us not to consume romaine for the time being, leaving us with iceberg, kale, arugula, and whatever desperate baby trimmings Big Salad tries to pass off as a legitimate variétale, pissing on our leg and telling us it’s “spring mix.” Iceberg is delicious as a wedge, drenched in bleu cheese dressing and crumbled bacon, but otherwise negligible. Raw kale’s only good for its utilitarian function, but, flavor-wise, a non-starter. Argula’s all shape, and spring mix is for nosy straight white women who’d rather people-watch like a fucking cop than read a book on the F train. I don’t want this. I want canoes of romaine, ready for adventure. I want anchovies, garlic cloves, parmesan, raw egg, and croutons, perhaps even chicken. I want crispy, tangy, subdued, and refreshing. I want a fucking Caesar salad. Is that too much to ask?