Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The history of (some) salad dressings, by Mr Renn

This all came about while eating salad last summer and asking my mother-in-law if Ranch was around when she was a kid, (she's not very old mind you), but she said it wasn't. So I have been curious what people ate on their salads all this time, until yesterday I did some "geneology"of several of the most common dressings. It might be useless information, but at least all of you will now know when someone wonders when Ranch dressing came about.

Here is a summary of a few of the most interesting, and I quote from http://whatscookingamerica.net/History/SaladHistory.htm
and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ranch_dressing.

"Salad dressings and sauces have a long and colorful history, dating back to ancient times. The Chinese have been using soy sauce for 5,000 years; the Babylonians used oil and vinegar for dressing greens nearly 2,000 years ago; and the ever-popular Worcestershire was derived from a sauce used since the days of the Caesar. Indeed, early Romans preferred their grass and herb salads dressed with salt. Egyptians favored a salad dressed with oil, vinegar and Oriental spices. Mayonnaise is said to have made its debut at a French Nobleman’s table over 200 years ago. Salads were favorites in the great courts of European Monarchs - Royal salad chefs often combined as many as 35 ingredients in one enormous salad bowl, including such exotic "greens" as rose petals, marigolds, nasturtiums, and violets. England’s King Henry IV's favorite salad was a tossed mixture of new potatoes (boiled and diced), sardines and herb dressing. Mary, Queen of Scots, preferred boiled celery root diced and tossed with lettuce, creamy mustard dressing, truffles, chervil and hard-cooked egg slices.

1924 - Most historians believe that Caesar salad honors restaurateur Caesar Cardini (1896-1956), who invented it in Tijuana, Mexico in 1924 on the Fourth of July weekend. It is said that on this busy weekend, Cardini was running low on food and he put together a salad for his guests from what was left over in the kitchen. His original recipe included romaine, garlic, croutons, and Parmesan cheese, boiled eggs, olive oil and Worcestershire sauce. The original salad was prepared at tableside. When the salad dressing was ready, the romaine leaves were coated with the dressing and placed stem side out, in a circle and served on a flat dinner plate, so that the salad could be eaten with the fingers."

The history of Thousand Island Dressing dates back to the early days of the 20th century and centers in the small resort village of Clayton, New York. A fishing guide named George LaLonde, Jr. guided visiting fishermen for Black Bass and Northern Pike through the waters of the 1000 Islands. After a day of fishing, he and his wife, Sophia LaLonde, would serve what they called “shore dinners” with a different and unusual salad dressing. The following story on the origin of Thousand Island Dressing was given to me by Allen and Susan Benas, owners of the Thousand Islands Inn:
“On one particular occasion, George LaLonde, Jr., was guiding a very prominent New York City stage actress named May Irwin and her husband. May Irwin, a renowned cook and cookbook authoress in her own right, was particularly impressed with the dressing and asked George for the recipe. Sophia La Londe, who created the dressing, was flattered by the request and willingly gave her the recipe. Sophia also had given the recipe to Ella Bertrand, who’s family owned the Herald Hotel, one of the most popular hotels in Clayton. May Irwin and her husband had stayed at the Herald Hotel during their early vacations in the island and had already tasted the dressing. It was May Irwin who gave it the name Thousand Island and it was Ella Bertrand who first served it to the dining public.
Upon her return to New York City, May Irwin gave the recipe to fellow 1000 Islands’ summer visitor, George C. Boldt, who was owner of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York. Equally impressed with the dressing and its flavor. Mr. Boldt directed his world famous maitre di, Oscar Tschirky, to put the dressing on the hotel’s menu. In doing so, Oscar Tschirky earned credit for introducing the dressing to the world.” "

In 1954, Steve and Gayle Henson opened a dude ranch near Santa Barbara California, and named it "Hidden Valley Ranch". As a side business, they sold to guests a special dressing that Steve had developed in Alaska. The dressing was popular, and they began selling bottles that guests could take home, and later opened a factory to sell packets of ranch seasoning that had to be mixed with mayonnaise and buttermilk (packets that are still available to this day). In 1972 the brand was bought by Clorox for $8 million.
Clorox reformulated the dressing several times to try to make it more convenient. The first change was to include buttermilk flavoring in the seasoning so that home chefs only had to add milk rather than buttermilk. In 1983, Clorox developed a non-refrigerated bottled formulation, making it even more popular.
Ranch became a common snack food flavor, starting with Cool Ranch Doritos in 1987, and Hidden Valley Ranch Wavy Lay's in 1994."

Italian dressing can be traced back to Roman and Greek times where people would seep herbs such as oregano, thyme, rosemary, fennel, and sage in olive oil to help the oil keep longer. I read that although the "dressing" was around, most Romans preferred plain salt on their greens.

French dressing is a term for any vinaigrette and has been used since the 1880's.

Bleu Cheese has been around since at least 870 AD, but probably hasn't incorporated into a salad dressing until the 1920's with the "dressing boom". Great dipping sauce for Buffalo wings (which originated in Buffalo, New York in the 1960's).

So, does anyone feel smarter or at least more intrigued? I love salad, and really enjoy Ranch dressing. I love to dip my pizza crust in it, chips, over tacos-next to ketchup and salsa it is an all purpose condiment. So next time you pour Ranch dressing over a garden salad, be thankful you live in the fullness of times. Bon appetite.


samunwritten said...

Wow. If I ever have a salad dressing question, I sure know who to call.

aLi said...

That was very interesting, I had no clue about the whole Ranch dressing thing. I'm on a salad kick this week, and bought 2 new bottles of salad dressing. 1 Caesar dressing (buy only Caesar Cardini's brand, it's THEE best!) And of course, Ranch (Hidden Valley, of course, NOT Kraft. Kraft's stinks).
Thanks for helping my brain today.

tracy m said...

Wow. Who knew? More than I ever imagined about salad dressing!

It's especially interesting as you scroll donw, juxtaposed with the picture of Sir O's milk escapades from yesterday!

tracy m said...

Oh, and I love Girards Caesar best!

Jeffrey will eat anything dipped in ranch dressing. Really.

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