Month of April: “Salt Fat Acid Heat” Recipe: Caesar’s Salad

“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” Theodore Roosevelt

For the lesson in acid, I piggybacked off the previous recipe of basic mayonnaise to make a Caesar dressing. In these strange times of quarantining at home it felt sensible to make do with what is at hand in my pantry and fridge. Acid is sour by nature but when combined with other tastes it can elevate our food to reach a more satisfying experience. In a Caesar dressing, lemon and vinegar are our acids. Combined with the salt of the anchovies and the fat of the egg yolk and olive oil, the result is a balance of an all around favorite dressing.

I reflected on this concept of making do and wondered how this could play into the story of Abby and me. There are a few but the first one that came to mind was nursing. Abby and I had many overlaps in our lives and nursing was one of them. In 1985 I as a single mom had to come up with something fast to make a living. Three years later when my son was still a toddler I graduated from nursing school and became a registered nurse. In 1989 I landed back in Wisconsin by the generosity of Abby and the kindness of her husband Cisco. I encouraged Abby to go back to school as well to enjoy the fruits of a handsome (lol) and consistent paycheck. Surprisingly she listened to me and in 1991 she graduated in a white cap ceremony. We would laugh really hard together over the years because she would curse my name for suggesting she follow suit. She shared with her mom one time or another that she would not be a nurse forever but she was. It was a bittersweet choice for the both of us for sure.

Yet at the time that is what we had to work with. My sister and Abby’s grandparents were nurses. My mom had dreams of becoming a nurse. It made sense at the time to go with the familiar. In looking back however, I don’t think it was the best fit for either one of us. Abby felt most at home creating something from her hands and imagination. I felt most at home in the kitchen or the garden. Those passions stayed with us over the years but were often thwarted by obligations, distractions and busyness. In our youth we were the kind of people who found it hard to stay on one track.

On the other hand, a nursing career no doubt provided us with a decent stable life. I wouldn’t be honest if I said I wasn’t grateful for that. We were able to provide lovely living spaces for our children. We had extra spending money for travel. We weren’t wealthy of course but we had enough. And we had many eye opening real life, real world experiences along the way. Abby worked in small town hospitals, home health agencies, inpatient mental health and private duty providing care for ventilator patients. I had worked in city hospitals, home health agencies, clinics and nursing homes. My field of expertise was in hospice care and by far the most rewarding. Hers was private duty. These experiences took me to Calcutta, India to work with the dying, to Belize, Central America to initiate the idea of a palliative care program in a small community and to Ireland to visit the first hospice ever established. Abby was a traveling nurse at one time and spent weeks as a home health nurse in Washington state among the giant trees and craters.

Abby was an extremely hard working nurse and would often take long overnight shifts and then work more during the day with a second part time job or babysit small grandchildren. She was crazy that way. In her last years, overworked with a slew of health conditions, the toll of nursing was growing heavier. Fortunately in her last months she was on disability for shoulder and knee surgeries. She had the benefits of life and health insurance. She had time with family she may never otherwise had….a small silver lining. She did what she could, with what she had, right where she was, right up to the end.

Ingredients: 3/4 cups basic mayonnaise, 4 anchovies chopped and pounded into a paste, 1 garlic clove pounded with a pinch of salt, 3-4 tablespoons of lemon juice, 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar, 1 cup of finely grated parmesan, 3/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper.

Mix all ingredients together and adjust either salt or acid to taste. Make salad with romaine lettuce, croutons and slivers of parmesan cheese.

4 Replies to “Month of April: “Salt Fat Acid Heat” Recipe: Caesar’s Salad”

  1. Rebecca, This is just beautiful. I love how you tie it all up in the end. Did you take the photo of the salad ? I think your new career should be catering or doing pop-up very small restaurants here and there. Love you, Estalyn Ps. The picture of Abby really captures her spirit. That smile.

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  2. I love your sharing about nursing and using what you have at the time, Rebecca. It is so important now to see the possibilities in where we are, with what we have.
    And the recipe for Cesar Salad dressing. The salad is one of my favorites but the dressing you can buy is never as good.

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