The Origin Of Thousand Island Dressing

Thousand Island dressing is versatile. Of course, you can use it on salads, but it's also popular on Reuben sandwiches (and all things Reuben) and it can even be added to potato salad. To make a homemade version of the dressing, per the Food Network, you need mayonnaise, ketchup, chili sauce, sweet pickle relish, onions, garlic, and hard-boiled eggs.

But what are the origins of the dressing? NPR says there are two differing stories about how the dressing recipe ended up at the Waldorf-Astoria, where it was popularized. However, when and where the dressing was invented along with the inspiration for its name is agreed upon. 

The origin is traced back to the Thousand Islands, which are located between New York and Canada, around the turn of the 20th century. But was it invented by the personal chef of the owner of the Waldorf-Astoria during a boat trip off the islands or by the wife of a local fishing guide?

From Thousand Islands to the Waldorf-Astoria

If you're a tourist visiting the Thousand Islands, per NPR, you're likely to hear one story about the origin of Thousand Island dressing. That story says that Waldorf-Astoria owner George Boldt and his wife, Louise, were on their boat when their chef realized he forgot the dressing for the salad. So he made a dressing with the ingredients he had on the boat and this became Thousand Island dressing.

But Thousand Islands Inn owner Allen Benas tells NPR and What's Cooking America a different story about how the dressing recipe ended up in the hands of the Waldorf-Astoria owner. When he purchased his restaurant, he found a recipe for "Sophia's Sauce," which looks like Thousand Island dressing. He says the recipe was given to the original owner of the restaurant by Sophia Lelonde, (or Lalonde depending on the publication) who was married to a local fishing guide. She often served her dressing to the fisherman and one of the people who happened to sample the dressing on her trips to the Thousand Islands was actress May Irwin, who asked for the recipe and then shared it with the Waldorf-Astoria owner. However the dressing came to be, a Reuben sandwich wouldn't be the same without it.