Food You Can Eat: Joey Bishop’s California Salad

Salad is best eaten at 3 AM in a comped Las Vegas Entertainer's Suite acompanied by at least one woman who is not your wife

Image via wikipedia. Read the sign top to bottom; that's them left to right.

Let’s celebrate the upcoming anniversary of the admission of California to the Union (September 9, 1850) and Labo(u)r Day by making Joey Bishop’s California Salad.

Though little remembered today, comedian Joey Bishop was phenomenally successful in the 1960s. The Bronx-born Joseph Abraham Gottlieb was then raised in South Philadelphia, the youngest of five children whose father was a bicycle repairman. Picture this: In the 1920s (Bishop was born in 1918) someone could raise a family with five children on the wages, and maybe tips, of a bicycle repairman. Mom might have had some income-producing role, but when could she have found the time? New Yorkers, and I assume Washingtonians, are always astonished by how relatively cheap rents are in Philadelphia, but they’re not that cheap. As for bicycle repairmen, New York still has them, and I’ve talked to one, and my sample of one told me that they all live off their girlfriends or their parents, and they all deal weed. I don’t know if he was telling the truth.

Anyway, Bishop did stand-up comedy in the 50s, originally with his older brother Maury, and did the talk/variety show circuit. That led to him guest hosting The Tonight Show, first under Jack Paar and then under Johnny Carson. He got a four-season sitcom in the first half of the 1960s and then his own talk show (competing with Carson’s Tonight Show), and his very own Ed McMahon was none other than a young and fresh Regis Philbin!

But also in the 1960s he was a famous founding member of the fabled Rat Pack. They originally had a group act that played at the Sands (this was peak Viva Las Vegas!) but Bishop didn’t really sing; his job was to write most of the jokes and patter. Naturally he turned up as a panelist on What’s My Line and later appeared on Match Game. He practically lived at the Friar’s Club and spoke/joked at many of the roasts. What couldn’t that man do.

Anyway, I made this salad in his memory. (More trivia: he was the last surviving member of the Rat Pack when he died at 89.) I scaled the amounts WAY back. Here’s the original that serves 8 to 10. That’s a conservative estimate. What’s astonishing about this “California” salad is that it contains no citrus and no avocado, so I don’t know what makes it “California”. If you want to make this adjust ingredients to your taste. For example, I went big on the anchovies and olives and cut back on the bean portions. Ready?

1 head washed, drained, crisped bronze lettuce

1 head washed, drained, crisped escarole

1 head washed, drained, crisped curly endive

[To crisp greens like this you dunk them in ice water (washed), drain them, then either pat them dry, roll them in a clean towel, or use your salad spinner because it is 1962 and you’re playing a set at the Sands later on.]

1 lb. can cut green beans, drained [I steamed and crisped a few green beans because canned green beans…]

1 lb. can red kidney beans, drained

1 lb. can garbanzo beans, drained

2 or 3 finely chopped scallions (white part only)

6 hard-cooked eggs, sliced

1 cup olive oil

1/2 cup distilled (or red wine) vinegar

1 1/2 tsps. salt

1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper

1 small jar (2.25 ounces) drained, sliced ripe olives

1 or 2 cans (2 ounces each) anchovies, rolled or fillets

Break lettuce, escarole and endive into bite-size pieces in a large salad bowl. Add green, kidney and garbanzo beans, and 4 sliced hard-cooked eggs. Toss lightly.

Prepare dressing by mixing together olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Pour over salad greens, tossing lightly. Garnish with remaining sliced eggs, olive slices and anchovies. Serve at once with crusty slices of fresh Italian bread. Serves 8-10.

Joey adds: “For convenience salad can be prepared several hours ahead. Refrigerate, add dressing at last minute. Makes an ideal offering for a buffet table.” Now I’m thinking “California Salad” was a staple at Las Vegas buffets in the 1960s and 1970s and this is where he got the idea.

I add: serve with generous lashings of scotch, packs of cigarette brands no longer produced, and busomy, scantily clad showgirls.

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6 Comments

  1. This salad sounds delicious, but agreed has nothing about that makes me think “California!”

    Then again, when I think of an archetypal California salad, my brain goes to the Cobb salads we’d order from TGIFridays back in the 90s. *ducks and runs*

    • I love Cobb Salads and I’ll have you know that I spent a New Year’s Eve in a TGIF! I was very young, I was 22, and a college friend of mine who was living at home organized an alumni NYE and he picked the TGIF in his town. Luckily we carpooled so only one of us jammed into a luxurious mid-80s sedan had to remain sober (and it wasn’t me, by God) so the rest of us could enjoy TGIF’s cornucopia of novelty drinks and dance to Top 40 hits.

      It was really fun but when you’re 22, sleeping on a floor in a suburban den/”rec room” and starting your day with watery American canned beer also seemed like fun.

  2. Back in the 20s I could see a bike repair guy making a good living until cars and trucks really took over. You still had a lot of horses on the streets then too. Huge amounts of delivery and courier traffic was on bikes, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a lot of money to be made in the chop shop side too if that was who you were.

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