In the days when railroad travel was king, diner cars served some stylish food. There are not many diner cars operating in today's age, like there once was during the grand old days of railway travel. My grandfather, who was a chef in the 1930's through the 1960's, made this railroad diner car tossed salad for us a few times. He described this salad to us kids as being "classy railroad food!"
The only place that I have seen this salad for sale in recent years was at the Plaza Casino Resort in downtown Las Vegas. The Plaza Casino was formerly named The Union Plaza. The Union Plaza was the passenger train station in Las Vegas for many years. The Union Pacific Railroad Company currently only has a freight depot in this general area.
Buffalo Bill's private rail cars are on display on Main Street by the Plaza Casino. A view of the dining car kitchen can be seen through the window. Diner cars in the early 1900's had very compact small kitchens. Diner cars in the mid 1900's had only slightly larger kitchens. An old railroad diner car kitchen usually only had enough room for one or two cooks.
Classic passenger car railroad travel is nearly a forgotten era of history. A forgotten era of history is not really an accurate description. It is more like banished history. The story of classic rail travel was basically erased by big oil companies, when big oil actively bought the major passenger rail companies and intentionally bankrupted them. At that time in history, travel by car was coming to a peak. Big oil wanted no alternative means of transportation to compete with car travel, so gasoline sales could be monopolized and so gas prices could be raised to increase profits. Those same profiteering tactics by big oil have continued to this day!
The Plaza Casino buffet offered many entrees that were commonly served in railroad passenger dining cars. My favorite Plaza Casino food was the old fashioned fried chicken and of course this diner car style tossed salad that I am featuring this blog article.
By the way, those are not cherry tomatoes in this diner car salad. They are maraschino cherries! Even a small amount of maraschino cherry juice found its way into the salad dressing. If you can picture a tiny railroad dining car kitchen, with very little storage space, then the maraschino cherries fit the bill. Maraschino cherries are basically a nonperishable item and over 100 can fit in a 1 gallon jar. Cherry tomatoes were not even available during the peak years of passenger trains.
Soft drink machines had not been invented as of yet during the age of railway travel. Maraschino cherry fizz, Roy Roger and Shirley Temple were all names of popular children's drinks that were made with maraschino cherry juice. Those children's drinks were served in diner cars, so the entire contents of a gallon jar of maraschino cherries was put to use. That is called efficiency by necessity!
This recipe makes 1 large salad portion or 2 medium size portions!
Railroad Diner Car Salad Dressing:
Place 3 tablespoons of mayonnaise into a small mixing bowl.
Add 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar.
Add 2 tablespoons of cream.
Add 1 pinch of onion powder.
Add 1 small pinch of garlic powder.
Add sea salt and white pepper.
Add 1/2 tablespoon of maraschino cherry juice.
Mix the ingredients together.
The dressing should be thin and creamy with a hint of sweet cherry flavor.
Railroad Diner Car Tossed Salad:
Place 3 cups of chopped romaine lettuce in a mixing bowl.
Add 1/3 cup of each of these thin sliced vegetables:
- peeled cucumber
- red bell pepper
- green bell pepper
Add 1/3 cup of sliced tomato pieces or sliced tomato end scraps.
Add 1 or 2 sliced green onions.
Add 10 to 12 maraschino cherries that have the stems removed.Pour the dressing over the salad in the mixing bowl.
Toss the salad ingredients together.
Mound the tossed salad on a plate and try expose a few of the maraschino cherries on top of the salad, so they can be seen.
This is a cool and refreshing salad with a flavor that appeals to both the young and the old. The sweet maraschino flavor is a welcome surprise to a weary traveler. The dressing is creamy and deliciously old fashioned! Now where is my old fashioned fried chicken and Shirley Temple? Ha Ha! Yum ... Shawna