Poetic License and the Cobb Salad

A long time ago, Sid Grauman – the Chinese theater guy – walked in late one night to that Hollywood legend The Brown Derby.  He wanted a snack before heading home after a long day and a late evening, something different, something satisfying, something filling, but something that would be easy to eat, because Grauman was suffering from a toothache.  Robert Cobb, owner of the legendary restaurant walked into the kitchen – already shut down for the evening – and started rooting through the refrigerator to see what he could rustle up that would fit the bill.  He pulled out hard boiled eggs and crispy bacon.  He found some left over cooked chicken and a ripe avocado.  There was roquefort cheese and tomatoes.  Then there was a selection of various lettuces.  Cobb chopped all of these ingredients finely, laid them all out decoratively on a platter, whipped up a salad dressing, and served it to Sid Grauman.  The dish was a hit, and Grauman came back frequently to order the Cobb Salad.

My first attempt at salad following my gastric bypass surgery was with a Cobb salad.  Packed with protein in the form of the chicken, eggs, cheese, bacon and avocado; and diced very finely, I thought it would be the perfect meal for me.  I ordered the dish at PJ Whelihan’s, and it worked pretty darn well for me.  I certainly couldn’t eat the whole thing, but I concentrated on the proteins, added bits of the lettuce and tomato, I ordered it with the dressing on the side, and plowed my way through about 1/4 of a very delicious meal.

Whenever I see a Cobb salad on a menu, I like to order it.  Again, with the protein and veggies, combined with the fact that I can’t eat the whole calorie laden dish in one sitting, it’s a terrific meal for me.  The flavors in a Cobb salad just blend together and satisfy every craving.

But what you often get when you order a Cobb salad in a restaurant is nothing like a Cobb salad.  Some are just slight deviations off of the original – one restaurant might sprinkle cheddar cheese on top of the whole thing; another might skip the egg or the avocado; another might only use one type of lettuce as opposed to a blend.  Then you have the truly deviant chefs who are leaving things whole – a whole chicken breast, for example.  You might have someone who experimented with a steak Cobb salad or a seafood Cobb salad. 

Why?  The Cobb salad was brilliant – a culinary masterpiece, beautiful in that it was simple, tasty, and satisfying.  But, okay, you don’t eat chicken, so you switch it up and use seafood.  I’m okay with that.  I understand that some people feel the need to make a personal statement.  BUT CHOP THE SALAD!  How dare you serve a Cobb salad that is little more than a grilled chicken salad, with full leaves of lettuce, chicken breast strips, and whatever else you feel like throwing in there.  Grape tomatoes are NOT chopped tomatoes.  If it’s a COBB salad, it is meant to be CHOPPED!

Interpret the salad however you want in terms of ingredients.  Mix it up with a different kind of cheese or God forbid, use steak.  But if you are going to call something a Cobb salad, please don’t serve it to me unless you chop it.