Before I start, you should know that my Dad wasn’t cheap — quite the opposite, actually — especially if you were his youngest child and only girl.
But this isn’t a precious story about a spoiled little girl, I promise. Instead, it’s a story of a man who never used enough charcoal. For someone who loved food & wine as much as my Dad, his miserly approach to the barbecue always puzzled me and was a marriage-long source of summertime frustration for my mother.
She would have all of the sides & condiments out on the table, the buns warmed and all three kids sitting at the table, only to wait while my Dad brought one hot dog/burger in through the patio door at a time. Few of us actually ate at the same time, and it must have taken at least 30 minutes before everyone had sat down to begin eating. And there was no changing him.
For the most part, those experiences led me to some pretty rampant over use of charcoal as an adult. But every now and then, I catch myself with a piece of meat bigger than my pile of coals. And right at that moment, when I realize that it’s going to be a long time until dinner, I often hear the whisper of a laugh over my shoulder and feel him behind me, nodding his head in approval.
Whenever Dad said “lettuce,” it was always (and I mean ALWAYS) followed by “turnip and pea!”
Let me put it all together: “Lettuce, turnip and pea!” Get it?
His sing-song delivery of that phrase, with his signature whistle at the end, made me giggle every time (and I mean EVERY TIME) when I was little.
By the time I was 14 or 15, my reaction turned to eye rolling, along with the obligatory “Daaad — that’s so ooooold!” Then I moved out of the house, and don’t really remember hearing it again.
Now I catch myself saying (and whistling) it to no one in particular whenever I pull a head of lettuce out of the crisper. Those moments used to make me sob. But now I’m happy to stand and let the comfort of them wash over me.
What a difference a couple years can make.
Another quirk about Dad that seems relevant here was his partiality to Caesar Salads made table side. If a table-side Caesar was on the menu, Dad always ordered it. Interestingly he never ordered a Caesar made in the kitchen. I’m sure it’s because he didn’t trust that the dressing wasn’t from a bucket.
(Apparently, blood is thicker than dressing, because, as some of you may know, I also try to avoid food that comes from a bucket. Except for when I occasionally awake from a moment of vagueness to find myself paying at the drive-thru.)
But to get back to table-side Caesars, the thing about them is that they’re always for two. And I’m a Daddy’s girl. So, when Dad asked if anyone wanted to share a Caesar with him, it was always me — even if there was something better on the menu. He gave me everything I ever wanted, even when I’m sure my mother (and common sense) thought the better of it. Even as a kid, I understood the least I could do was share a salad with him.
Those Caesars taught me that food shared is always better than the very best dish eaten alone.
(Unless you’re really craving space, in which case a leisurely three-course dinner at the back of a neighbourhood restaurant, in the company of a familiar book and a glass of crisp white, can be exactly what the psychotherapist ordered.)
Here’s one of my favourite pictures of all time, showing Dad and my Maid of Honour, Jess, on Howard‘s and my wedding day. The wine was flowing freely, everyone was smiling and love was in the air. Just the type of party my parents loved to host.
And not a barbecue in sight.
This Caesar’s for you Dad — I grilled it over a minimal number of dying coals and brushed it liberally with homemade dressing, just the way you liked it. I wish you were here to split it with me. I miss you everyday.
(Click on the title below for a printable version of the recipe.)
: This slightly charred version of the classic salad makes the perfect accompaniment for whatever else you’ve got on the grill — beef, chicken, pork, tofu — you name it. The smoky taste will make it a summertime favourite. Grill the lettuce once the meat is off the heat and resting.
- Egg Yolk – 1
- Dijon Mustard – 2 tsp (10 ml)
- Garlic, green root removed, minced – 2 cloves
- Anchovy Fillets, minced – 2-3
- Olive Oil – 5 Tble (75 ml)
- Vegetable Oil – 5 Tble (75 ml), plus extra
- Lemon Juice, fresh squeezed 3-4 Tble (45-60 ml)
- Romaine Lettuce – 2 heads
- Baguette slices – 8
- Parmesan Cheese, freshly grated – ¼ Cup (60 ml)
- s+p – to taste
- Whisk the yolk, dijon, garlic and anchovies in a a medium bowl. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then, slowly drizzle in the olive oil, and then the vegetable oil, while continuing to whisk. Once all of the oil is incorporated and the dressing is smooth, whisk in the lemon juice and s+p to taste. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve (up to 3 days).
- Remove the coarse outer leaves from the romaine and trim the root end lightly, but leave enough of the root to keep the head together. Cut each head in lengthwise, then brush lightly with vegetable oil and season with salt and pepper.
- Brush both sides of each baguette slices lightly with vegetable oil.
- Grill the bread lightly on both sides over a medium grill (or over charcoal that is starting to die). when the bread is done, put the romaine halves on the grill, cut side down. Grill until just wilted and lightly browned (less than 2 minutes — depending on the heat of the grill), then flip and repeat on the other side.
- To serve, arrange a lettuce half on each plate. Brush the croutons lightly on one side with extra dressing, and divide amongst the plates. Brush or drizzle dressing over the grilled lettuce and garnish with parmesan cheese and s+p.
- I prefer to use a blend of ½ olive oil and ½ vegetable oil, because I prefer the lighter taste. You can use all olive oil, but I find the strong taste of the oil over powers the other flavours in the dressing.
- I also garnished my salads with a few capers. throw ‘em on there if you’ve got some.
- Egg whites can be frozen with little effect on quality. Save them up for a big batch of meringues…
Preparation time: 15 minute(s)
Cooking time: 5 minute(s)
Diet type: Pescatarian
Diet tags: Reduced carbohydrate, Gluten free
Number of servings (yield): 4
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