While the origin of the word “salad” is Roman, the origin of the word “lettuce” is Greek. Galaktos, meaning “milk” is the root of the Latin word lac. The milky liquid that comes from the stems of lettuce gave way to the Latin word lactuca.
Salad without dressing is like pizza without cheese, and history has reflected this. Each nation has spun their own take on dressing. The Chinese used soy sauce, the Babylonians used vinaigrette, the Romans used salt, and the Egyptians used oil and vinegar with some oriental spices.
Thanks to the British and the French fighting we are lucky to have mayonnaise, one of the staple ingredients in many salad dressings! The story goes that Duke de Richelieu, in 1756, won a victory over the British in Port Mahon. His personal chef did not have cream to make his normal sauce and used olive oil instead. The new masterpiece was called Mahonnaise, in honor of the Duke’s victory over the British in Port Mahon.
Although there seems to be a bit of a controversy as to who created the Caesar salad, most believe it was Caesar Cardini in 1924. One day in his restaurant in Tijuana, Mexico, Caesar was out of ingredients for his normal salad and threw together the now famous Caesar salad with what remained in his pantry. The salad was served table-side, and had the romaine lettuce placed in a circle with stems facing out, meant to be eaten using your hands. The salad soon became world renowned, and many famous people were going south of the border to partake of what would become a staple in every restaurant.
One of the go-to salad dressings is Thousand Island dressing. This dressing, like so many other recipes, was created from lack of ingredients. George Boldt, the owner of the famous Waldorf Astoria, was on a trip next to the thousand islands in the St. Lawrence River, and ran out of some of the ingredients used in his normal dressing. Using what was available, he created the Thousand Islands we know and love.