Thousand Island Dressing, the history

Have you always wondered how Thousand Island dressing got it’s name? OK, me neither.

IMG_3707But we took a boat ride through the Thousand Islands in the St. Lawrence Seaway and were told the tale.

The photo shows a number of the tiny islands, with an osprey occupant.

I love a good etiological myth, so let me pass the salad story along to you!

In the early 1900s there was a Canadian-born actress named May Irwin, who was famous for being the first silver screen star to enjoy an on-screen kiss (The Kiss in 1886). One time when she was vacationing in the Thousand Islands, as she did frequently, she was served this dressing and requested the recipe.

May Irwin passed the recipe to George Boldt* a hotelier who had his chef put it on the menu at the Waldorf-Astoria.

The secret isn’t so much the ingredients as presentation.

The trick is to swirl the chili sauce into the mayo so it resembles a sunset, then to scatter the chopped green ingredients to call to mind the scattering of a thousand islands.

Here’s the “official”recipe they handed out on the boat:

1 cup Kraft mayonnaise 
3 Tablespoons chili sauce 
1 teaspoon chives, chopped 
1 teaspoon green pepper, chopped 
1 teaspoon dill pickle, chopped 
salt and pepper to taste

PS: George Boldt has an interesting rags-to-riches story. I’ll tell it in another post.

Share This:

I'm an essayist, memoirist, and Presbyterian pastor. My books are both spiritual memoirs -- "Chasing the Divine in the Holy Land" and "Ruined."