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What Caesar Did For My Salad
by Albert Jack

Release Date: 6th Sep 2010
Publisher: Penguin
ISBN: 978 1 8461 4254 3
RRP: £12.99

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A word of caution: do not read if hungry!

More histrionic excerpts from history from the inimitable Albert Jack; this time, he turns his ever curious mind on food. And heck, why not? It’s yummy (for the most part), an integral part of our existence and can be a delight to make and look at. With his familiar, easy style, Jack provides a rough guide to the origins of some of our menu’s mainstays: the what’s, where’s, why’s and how’s.

Being human, we like our history gruesome and macabre – the more bloody the better, in most cases. But not all food was created equal. Take the mighty Cobb Salad, for example. Personally, I’m a fan of the old Cobb, it’s a modern classic. But the tale of how it came about is less than staggering. On the one hand, it’s suggested that Mr Cobb made it up from a hodgepodge of ingredients for a German friend as a midnight snack. His wife, however, remembers differently: apparently, his head chef made it using Cobb’s favourite legumes and finely chopped the ingredients because he was suffering after a nasty visit to the dentist. Not quite a show-stopper of a story. A husband and wife disagreeing, whatever next!

By far more interesting is the gruesome take on the lip-smacking dish: Steak Diane. Named after the Roman Goddess of the hunt, so far, so not bad… but, as the story goes, Diana lost her rag when a certain peeping tom saw her in her birthday suit and turned him into a stag. Still, not so bad… Except, the poor man/stag was then hunted down by his own dogs, and when caught, was ripped apart and eaten. Nice. We knew food couldn’t be all dull!

The appeal of What Caesar Did For My Salad will be measured by the level of your own innate curiosity, your appreciation of history and your appetite for food. Inevitably, some foodstuffs have a more intriguing history than others, but it’s nice that we’re given the opportunity to determine that for ourselves. This is one to be sipped rather than gulped down and dipped into with discerning fingers to pick out the juiciest bits.


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