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San Francisco’s Green Goddess Dressing

by Susan Saperstein

Green Goddess salad dressing was created by the chef at the Palace Hotel in honor of actor George Arliss, who was starring in a play entitled The Green Goddess. The creamy salad dressing was very popular in the 1920s through the 1980s, and then dropped from sight on most menus.

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The Palace Hotel

The Green Goddess, a very successful play of the 1920s, was written by William Archer, a Scottish drama critic who translated and published the work of Henrik Ibsen in London in the 1880s.

The play is about an airplane that crashes in the Asian kingdom of Rukh. The Rajah holds the three British survivors prisoner because the British are about to execute his three brothers in neighboring India. His subjects believe that their Green Goddess has given them the lives of the three travelers as payment for the lives of the Rajah's brothers. They will execute them when the brothers are executed. The travelers must figure a way to escape.

George Arliss, a prominent London actor, came to the United States and starred in many plays at the turn of the last century before moving into movies. He played the character of the Rajah in the play and also in both the silent movie (1923) and the talkie (1930). There is also a radio version of the play starring Orson Welles.

Palace Chef Philip Roemer created the dressing in honor of Arliss when the actor was staying at the Palace. Some stories say that Arliss himself suggested naming a salad or dressing after the play. Roemer, who presided over the Palace kitchen, was born in Alsace and served in fashionable hotels in France and Germany before coming to the United States. He was chef of the official banquets of the Panama Pacific Exposition.

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