ST. LAWRENCE RIVER ADVENTURE: Fishing parties and Thousand Island Dressing

August 23, 2020

Story Location:
United States

By this point this should have been called St. Lawrence River Adventure but I’m not one to stand on formality. 

PICNIC POINT STATE PARK - George and Sophie Lalonde and a New York City actress/author named May Irwin formed a love triangle in the early 1900s, but it’s not what you may be thinking. It does involve spice, but not with the fact that May Irwin is known as the first actress to appear in a film in a kissing scene.  

It’s not that she, George and Sophie didn’t like each other.  They did, but what they had a mutual love for was the unique salad dressing that Sophie concocted for the fishing parties that George took out on the waters of the St. Lawrence River. May and her husband liked the fishing excursions almost as much as they liked Sophie’s dressing.  

Part of the fishing party experience provided by many outfitters included freshly cooked fish, boiled potatoes and salad along with other items. George made sure fish were caught. Sophia set up the picnic baskets including the salads. The guides cooked fish caught by their parties on fires built at impromptu camps set up on many of the islands.  Picnic Point on Grindstone Island is one of those sites. 

Shore dinners became a popular tradition that continues today.  

Sophia was known for her Sophia’s Sauce made with mayonnaise, pickle relish, peppers, hard boiled eggs and a variety of other ingredients depending on what was handy at the time. Eventually Sophia’s Sauce became so popular that she settled on a recipe that she handed out to those making requests.  

May Irwin was one of the people who sampled Sophia’s Sauce.  She was so impressed she asked to use the recipe in a cookbook she was writing.  She is credited with dubbing the dressing Thousand Island in honor of its place of origin.

Irwin also introduced the dressing to George Boldt, proprietor of the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City.  He liked it so much he had it placed on the hotel’s dinner menu and its fame soared far beyond the shore fish dinners where Sophie first served it. Its popularity, like the shore dinners, continues today.      

The fishing captains’ association helps maintain and improve many sites where they host their shore dinners.  At Picnic Point, they helped construct a dock, gazebo and grilling area for use by the public.  But part of the fishing captains’ deal is that the Picnic Point facilities are reserved for the fishing parties between noon and 3 p.m. every day during the season. This site, like so many other similar sites and islands in the Thousand Island region, is accessible only by boat.

Here’s a Thousand Island Dressing recipe that one site on the internet claims is the original:

3 hard-boiled eggs, chopped; 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce; 1 tablespoon white sugar; 1/4 cup white vinegar; 1 pinch ground cloves; 1 quart mayonnaise; 3/4 cup sweet pickle relish; 1/2 cup chopped black olives; 1/2 cup diced red bell pepper.  Mix it all together and you will have Thousand Island Dressing.

You can really impress your friends by calling it Sophie’s Sauce and then when they question the name, wow them with the history.  


Subscribe to the Daily Newsletter