Like apple pie, meatloaf, and hot dogs, Caesar salad has secured itself as an American food staple. In fact, it’s one of the most commonly-featured restaurant menu items in the country, having found places in both the finest of restaurants and most questionable of dumps. There is more to the romaine lettuce-based salad that meets the eye, though. Your favorite lunchtime indulgence has a rich history that may surprise even the most knowledgable of food experts.

But first:

What is Caesar salad?

A traditional Caesar contains romaine lettuce, croutons, garlic, lemon juice, eggs, parmesan, Worcestershire sauce or anchovies, and salt and pepper. Ingredient amounts vary from chef to chef, but the best (and most authentic) Caesar you’re going to get is tossed tableside to ensure freshness. (No, your bottled Kraft Caesar Salad is not an accurate representation of the original).

Scroll down for a brief history of the delicious dish, as well as a few random facts that will impress all of your future dinner guests.

1. The Caesar salad has nothing to do with Julius Caesar. 

Though we’re sure the famous Roman wouldn’t have minded a plate of the dressing-doused greens, the Caesar salad is linked to chef and restaurateur Caesar Cardini. Cardini invented the recipe at his Tijuana restaurant, Caesar’s Bar and Grill, in 1924. Apparently they were running low on inventory during a 4th of July party and the dish was concocted using random ingredients found in the kitchen. The result was obviously delicious, resulting in a culinary classic that has withstood the test of time.

2. Caesar salad has its own holiday on July 4th

It not only commemorates the day of its birth, but also makes for the perfect summer BBQ side dish. Frankly, the garlic content will have you seeing fireworks.

3. The original recipe did not contain anchovies. 

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Instead, Cardini used Worcestershire sauce in both his original recipe and bottled varieties. Try it both ways and decide which option reigns supreme.

4. The Guinness Record for the world’s largest caesar salad weighed in at a little over three tons. 

Guinness Book of World Records

It was prepared by Canirac restaurant in Tijuana on October 20, 2007 and required a team of 160 participants. Not even a Brontosaurus could finish it.

5. Caesar salad is primarily responsible for an increase in romaine lettuce production. 

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There are nearly 80,000 acres of Romaine farms today, thanks mostly in part to fast food’s decision to top Caesar with grilled chicken and call it a health food. Hooray for domestically-raised produce and a better economy!

6. A traditional Caesar salad only contains one larger crouton and no grilled chicken or bacon. 

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Sorry, meat lovers. We know you need your protein, but it wouldn’t fly with Cardini. (We’re sure McDonald’s could not care less.)

7. It was originally served as a finger food.

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Rather than chopping the salad leaves, diners were able to pick them up by the stems and eat them. They’re no PF Chang’s lettuce wraps, but we kind of like this idea of deconstructed eating.

8. You should always use raw egg. 

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If you’re scared of salmonella, have no fear. The lemon juice’s acidity will typically kill any lingering bacteria. Plus, we’re pretty sure Arnold Schwarzenegger consumed a dozen raw eggs each day and he turned out, um, okay.

9. Caesar, in addition to the Cobb, introduced meal-sized salads. 

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Prior to its invention, salads were always meant to be side dishes and not filling entrees. But because Caesar tastes oh-so-good, we simply couldn’t get enough. Lunchtime office salads for all!

Craving Caesar’s crunchy, cheesy, salty goodness? Try it yourself with our traditional recipe. And don’t skimp on the anchovies! They provide an extra depth of flavor that will taste anything but fishy.

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