My brother, Darian, gets many kudos for picking really fantastic places to have his childhood birthday dinners. While I was content to have homecooked roast beef, warmed spinach salad and chocolate cake year after year — all my own choosing — my brother wanted out. Which is why while many of my birthdays — delicious as they were — have blended together, driving around Austin will still lead me on a tour of Darian’s yearly celebration.
To me the very large Chinese restaurant on N IH-35 will always be the Old San Francisco Steakhouse. This restaurant was dressed up as a fancy wild west saloon with tall, tall ceilings, ornate walls, chandeliers, and most important a ceiling-hung velvet swing that diners could swing on. I was immediately enamored, but it’s incredible that my parents got their incredibly shy daughter to walk to the front of a large restaurant and onto that swing. Possibly it was the high from the caesar salad. Yup, there I am nine years old or so, can’t remember my own name shy and raving about the caesar salad that came with the steak. Salad is also kind of a family passion, it seems. During dinner, not so long ago, my brother enthusiastically exclaimed “I love salads!”
Little did I understand that by replacing warmed spinach salad with caesar salad (not any caesar that caesar) my mother entered into a personal challenge. No way was her daughter going to like some restaurant’s caesar salad over her own. If they could make it she could do it better. Anything they could do she could do better.
This song, “Anything You Can Do,” plays in my head fairly often. Mostly during absurdly competitive moments. Until a few weeks ago though I only knew it from an old laundry detergent commercial.
For this post, I felt it high time to watch Annie Get Your Gun. It was wildly successful when it came out, but I found it ehh. Unfortunately you have to wait until the end before this song is sung. At this point anyone even slightly feminist should turn the movie off, write up their own ending, act it out and consider it genuine. Proud to be best of the best Annie Oakley throwing a match to stroke the ego of a guy so insecure he dressed in outfits embroidered head to toe with his own initials ruins the whole rest of it.
My mother would never have done that. The next few years were spent in competition until this particular dressing won a three dressing taste off. (Honestly, I remember-ish the story about this, but have no memory of this event so some of the re-telling may be incorrect.)
While there are many variations (remember my family has tried them) to me this will always be the true Caesar Salad. For a vegetarian version I once replaced the anchovies with capers. It was very good, not the same, but good. I theorize that a combination of capers for flavor and silken tofu for consistency would be a closer option.
I don’t where my mom got the recipe, but based on the time, I deduct Bon Appétit. The recipe for the croutons is a bit of a guess. Even after all these years I have not paid enough attention to know if I’m doing them correctly only to know that there is a correct way. They were pretty darn good this way.
Oh and, HAPPY BIRTHDAY DARIAN! Hope it’s Salatastic!
P.S. Don’t you love that I turned your birthday into something all about me? Who’s the best sister ever?