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Destruction of Food Culture

Ok, it’s late, so I just have a minute for this rant…

This evening, I saw an ad for the latest fast food atrocity: the Ceasar Chicken Bagel from Burger King.

Ok, the food is no more of a blip on the culinary radar screen, but it’s the ad. In the ad, the announcer announces confidently that the chicken breast is grilled “Caesar Style”… let me ask you this… what the fuck does that mean???

The damned Chicken Caesar Salad.

In the early 90s, there was a movement put forth by “restaurants” like TGI Fridays and their ilk to redefine classic food concepts but to make it bland, mundane, and more “palatable” to the tastes of middle america. Their most evil creation? The Chicken Caesar Salad.

The classic Caesar Salad, which is the only REAL Caesar salad, is very simple to make and to screw up. Take fresh romaine lettuce and add it to a bowl that has been rubbed with fresh garlic and anchovies (leave the anchovies in) dress it with a raw egg yolk, mustard, Worchestershire sauce, lemon juice, black pepper and olive oil emulsion and top with fresh croutons and parmasan cheese shavings. No more, no less – and yes, the anchovies are required.

But then it changed. The anchovies disappeared, as did the raw egg yolk. Soon a Caesar Salad became romaine lettuce dressed with a common mayonnaise based dressing, with added olive oil and parmasan cheese. Essentially, a blue cheese dressing with black pepper and parmasan instead of the blue cheese.

Then the croutons disappeared and slices of grilled chicken appeared, and voila, the Caesar Salad of the roaring 20s was replaced by the insidious Chicken Caesar Salad… the bastard child of corporate restaurant market groups. It has gone so far that I have had to – at nice restaurants – say that I want a real Caesar Salad, with the anchovies and raw egg if I want something without chicken breast and with flavor.

Now Burger King is trying to kill the Caesar Salad once and for all by saying that they have chicken breast “Caesar Style” on their bagel.

Let me repeat in case you didn’t read through this whole rant – THERE IS NO CAESAR STYLE! There is the process of making a fresh Caesar Salad, complete with anchovies, a fresh raw egg parmasan – a process intended for one thing: romaine lettuce.

What you have, Burger King, is parmasan mayo on a chicken breast, in between two pieces of sponge that you call a “bagel”. Call it a Pepper-Parmasan Chicken Sandwich. Call it whatever you want, but please stop maligning the good name of an almost lost culinary classic.

Oh, and while you’re at it – all of you cocktail houses can stop calling everything in a Martini glass a “Martini”. There is one Martini – 4 parts gin, 1 part vermouth and a single olive. I can even ALMOST consider the vodka variant a “Vodka Martini”. But if it isn’t gin and vermouth, it isn’t a martini. Stop calling it an apple-tini, chocolate-tini, tartini – they might be great cocktails, but they aren’t martinis. People call them “Martinis” or “tinis” because they appeal to people who want the glamour of the “Martini” but aren’t able to handle the strength or intensity of the classic drink. Guess what, it’s ok that you don’t like Martinis. Hell, most people can’t stomach them and that’s OK – but don’t console yourself by believing that drinking that bright red “Passion-tini” puts you in the same class as Bogart, Bacall, Sinatra and the greats who would slap a waiter who brought them a Caesar Salad adorned with chicken strips. Be proud of what you are drinking and say what it is – a chocolate kiss, a lemon drop, a passionfruit cocktail… but we don’t think you’re “hip” just because you’re drinking something you call a Martini, so don’t fool yourself. I love all sort of cocktails, don’t get me wrong, but that is what they are: cocktails served in a Martini glass… but a Martini it does not make.

Time for a real Caesar Salad, a nice Boodles Martini and a Sinatra CD.

Posted in General Ramblings.

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