For 30 years, Carrie LaDou has been inducing pregnant women to go into labor.
She's not an OB-GYN, she's a restaurant owner. And her method doesn't involve pitocin, cervix softeners or stripping membranes. It involves salad.
And she's actually not sure how (or whether) it works.
Still, women come from all around Los Angeles to Caioti Pizza Cafe, a restaurant in the Studio City neighborhood, to chow down on the "Maternity Salad," when they've had enough of all this gestating business. One LA transplant to New York City, Carson Daly's wife Siri, even had the restaurant ship her a bottle of salad dressing when she was 9 months pregnant with their second child. She drank it straight from the bottle and went into labor two days later, she told "Today." "The salad itself was tasty but what I really remember was the dressing," she said. "It had a very strong flavor — like perhaps it was laced with castor oil, or Pitocin."
The salad is generational, too, with some—whose births may have been triggered by the salad—coming in and ordering their own on the last day of their 40th week of pregnancy.
So, just what is going on here?
LaDou isn't divulging the salad dressing's ingredients, though she's also not convinced that it's the tangy oil-and-vinegar-based sauce that ushers in all these birth days. In fact, when very pregnant women order the salad with adjustments—like asking for it without the bitter watercress greens—she reminds them that the salad-as-induction-method leans toward Gestalt: the baby's produced are the sum of the salad's parts, not any individual ingredient on its own.
"We're not saying it's the dressing—we don't know what it is," LaDou said. "So, I always tell them, 'If you're here to have a baby, you need to have the salad as it's meant to be.'"
The salad-y parts are clear, though: romaine lettuce, watercress, walnuts and pasteurized gorgonzola cheese.
Maybe it sounds crazy, but plenty of women swear by it. Or at least take a chance on it before moving on to more medical means of going into labor. Every day for nearly three decades, pregnant women have come in and ordered the salad.
"[W]e have between five and 20 a day—they're past due and they want to get the baby out," she said. These days, they post their pictures on Instagram. The restuarant also has a book of salad babies, where parents record their salad-to-birth stories and often include pictures.
And the happy helpers at Caioti freqently update their chalkboard with the names of salad babies. They know how to play to their audience.