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Salad Days

June 12, 2007

I have been inspired by John Hodgman’s "The Areas of My Expertise" to put forward a few of my own little known facts about history.

The first of these concerns the last years of the Roman Republic, and the civil war waged between Caesar and Pompey.

Most people believe it was the struggle to achieve preeminence in the Roman political arena that led to this civil war, and that forced Caesar to cross the Rubicon in early 49 B.C.  This, however, is only partially true.  Caesar and Pompey were struggling for preeminence, yes, but in the culinary, rather than the political, arena.

You see, Ted Theodore Logan was quite correct when he identified Gaius Julius Caesar as "the salad dressing dude".  Caesar, in fact, built his career on the success of his popular salad recipe, which combined romaine lettuce, delicious croutons, and a secret dressing whose ingredients and ratios were known only to himself.

Around 54 B.C. Pompey, tired of hearing Caesar’s name on every menu in Rome, hired agents to steal the ingredients of Caesar’s dressing.  They were successful, and by 52 B.C. taverns and sidewalk cafes were serving what came to be called the "Pompey Salad", which was identical to the Caesar Salad, save that it used iceberg lettuce rather than romaine.

Both salads were beloved by the people of Rome, and their increasing rivalry eventually led their creators, and finally the whole of the Roman world, to war.  Caesar, when he gained his victory, outlawed Pompey’s salad, and ordered its name scoured from every menu in every dining establishment in the empire.

Caesar’s famous last words, "et tu, Brute" ("and you, Brutus?"), referred not to his realization that Brutus was in on the assassination plot, but to a piece of iceberg lettuce stuck to Brutus’ beard, by which Caesar was able to deduce that the young senator had enjoyed a Pompey Salad for lunch.

Following his assassination, Caesar’s recipe passed to his adopted heir, Octavian, who used its popularity to turn the people of Rome against Marc Antony.

The last Pompey Salad known to have existed was the accidental creation of 7-year old Alan Black, who, in the course of abusing his salad bar privileges at the nearby SouperSalad, combined iceberg lettuce with Caesar’s legendary dressing.  The next day, his family’s home burned to the ground and a neighbor’s dog was observed to have been uttering disturbing prophecies.  Some speculate this was the work of Caesar’s ghost, who is, by all accounts, "great".

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Jamie permalink
    June 12, 2007 10:31 pm

    You are ridiculous! 🙂

  2. TVH permalink
    June 14, 2007 11:49 am

    I believe every word, but find it odd they left such enriching information out of the HBO show.

  3. June 20, 2007 11:55 pm

    Drinking and posting again huh………..

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