Monday, April 19, 2021

Thousand Islands Dressing

by Susan G Mathis

Who likes Thousand Islands Dressing? I do.

You probably use Thousand Islands dressing on your Reuben sandwiches, your salads, even your burgers. I like it on other sandwiches and even as a dip for veggies, chips, and French fries. But how did this creation come to be?

It’s a great story, really. And it began in the Thousand Islands area of upstate New York where there are 1864 islands. During the Gilded Age, the rich and famous bought islands and shoreline, building castles, mansions, and amazing summer homes. Many came from New York City to flee the heat and humidity—and stench—of the metropolitan summers. George Boldt was one of them.

George Boldt built Boldt Castle on Heart Island—in the heart of the Thousand Islands. Boldt was the manager of the prestigious Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City and was in the process of building an elegant stone castle for his wife—which is now a famous tourist stop.

Boldt’s friend and colleague, Oscar Tschirky, accompanied Mr. Boldt to the castle several times. As maitre d’hotel of the famous Waldorf-Astoria, he was always ready to create something special. Once, while on the Boldt’s yacht, Oscar realized that the crew left behind the salad dressing, so he concocted what’s now known as Thousand Island Dressing.

On the yacht, Oscar found the condiments mayonnaise, ketchup, pickle relish, and Worcestershire sauce. He chopped some vegetables such as green olives, onions, and bell-peppers as well as a hard-boiled egg, and voila! He created a brand, new dressing. Boldt liked it so well that he began serving it at his hotel, and it became quite popular. And because of this impromptu creation, Oscar’s fame as a famous chef grew as well. He created other innovative and improbable dishes such as Waldorf Salad and Veal Oscar.

At the time, the country was in the midst of a salad craze. Iceberg lettuce was easily grown in California, and it was the dawn of the refrigerated train car. Chefs combined local greens with iceberg, and because mayonnaise cut some of the bitterness from the greens, the dressing was for the culinary elite, the rich and famous, and high-class establishments.

There’s a second, less interesting story about the dressing’s creation that’s largely been debunked but still moseys around the islands. This tale gives an innkeeper and a fishing guide’s wife the credit. Sophia Lalonde lived in Clayton, NY. She’d make food for the tourists who went on her husband’s fishing trips. On one such trip, May Irwin, the popular silent movie actress who had the first on-screen kiss, was said to have tasted the dressing and asked for the recipe, passing it on to Boldt who made it famous by serving it at the Waldorf-Astoria.

Whatever the origin may be, Thousand Islands Dressing originated in the Thousand Islands. There are many variations of the dressing today, but the base is mayonnaise and tomato sauce or ketchup and whatever else the cook puts in it. Because my novels are based in the Thousand Islands Gilded Age, many readers ask for the story. And now you know!

Here’s Susan’s Thousand Islands Dressing recipe:

Ingredients: 1 cup mayonnaise, 1/4 cup relish, 2 tbs vinegar, 2 tbs. Worcestershire sauce, 1 tsp sugar, ¼ cup diced red pepper, ¼ c diced green onion, 1 diced hardboiled egg.

Combine ingredients in a bowl, stir and refrigerate overnight.

About Devyn’s Dilemma:

Longing for love, can she escape the shadows that follow her to Dark Island?

1910, Thousand Islands, New York. Others may consider The Towers castle on Dark Island an enchanting summer retreat, but to Devyn McKenna, it’s a prison. Yet as she works as a maid for Frederick Bourne, former president of the Singer Sewing Machine Company, her life blossoms under the kindness of his family and fascinating entrepreneurs such as J.P. Morgan, Thomas Lipton, and Captain Vanderbilt. But more than anything, the growing friendship of Mr. Bourne’s valet, Brice McBride, begins to pry away the painful layers that conceal Devyn’s heart.

Brice is drawn to the mysterious Devyn even though he’s certain she’s hiding a secret, one far more dangerous than the clues they find in The Towers that hint of a treasure on the island. When Devyn is accused of stealing Bourne’s investment in Vanderbilt’s New York City subway expansion, he might not be able to protect her.

About Susan:

Susan G Mathis is an international award-winning, multi-published author of stories set in the beautiful Thousand Islands, her childhood stomping ground in upstate NY. Susan has been published more than 20 times in full-length novels, novellas, and non-fiction books.

Her first two books of The Thousand Islands Gilded Age series, Devyn’s Dilemma and Katelyn’s Choice are available now, and she’s working on book three. The Fabric of Hope: An Irish Family Legacy, Christmas Charity, and Sara’s Surprise, and her newest, Reagan’s Reward, are also available. Susan’s books have won numerous awards, including two Illumination Book Awards, the American Fiction Award, the Indie Excellence Book Award, and the Literary Titan Book Award. Visit for more.


  1. Fun post! I love Thousand Island dressing and didn't make the connection to the geographic area. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Thanks for posting! Very interesting. My husband loves Thousand Island dressing but he's only ever had the premade version.