As history shows, some of the gastronomic creations that conquer our tastes as well as our fancy are results of either pure coincidence or sheer luck. Often times, what we have come to taste and love is the outcome of an error, forgetfulness or outright dare peppered with a sense of culinary adventure. Yet, whatever the origin and whoever the person that created gastronomic history, these foods have managed to captivate our senses and immortalized their creators by honoring them in the most respected manner.
From Graham Crackers and Garibaldi Biscuits, to Beef Wellington and Reuben Sandwiches, many of the foods we see in respectable restaurant menus or try in our own kitchens are named after people who are credited by either inspiring, or creating them.
For instance, fettuccine and Alfredo are a pair of inseparable twins. Although earlier semblances of this silky cream sauce sinfully draped around a type of flat, thick noodles appropriately named “linguini” existed in Italy for many years, the version created in 1920's by the restaurant owner Alfredo di Lello became very popular. Many celebrities were attracted to Alfredo's restaurant. Among these were the (Canadian-born) Mary Pickford and her second husband Douglas Fairbanks who were honeymooning in Rome, and fell in love with Fettuccine Alfredo. When they returned to their home in the US, they asked for the same recipe and thus popularized it in the new world.
A basic white sauce used as the base for other sauces, the Bechamel Sauce was named to flatter Louis de Bechamel, marquis de Nointel (1603-1703) and a courtier to King Louis XIV. Made with butter, flour and milk, Bechamel can change into Mornay to accompany fish, or cheese sauce to enhance many vegetables dishes.
Considered to be the king of salads, Caesar Salad was of course not created by the ill-fated Roman emperor himself; but by a humble restauranteur and chef named Caesar Cardini in Tijuana, Mexico. Today, almost eight decades after its creation, it is served in many restaurants and homes as a traditional salad. Oh, a drop of flavor variation would be good here : The original version of Caesar salad did not have anchovies as an actual ingredient. They came from the Worchestershire sauce that chef Cardini added to what he had in his kitchen to offer to the Prince of Wales who was stuck in Tijuana due to weather conditions !.
Another popular dish and comfort food by many is the Chicken Tetrazzini. Made with egg noodles, mushrooms and cubed chicken pieces in a cream sauce topped with cheese, it was named after the Italian soprano Luisa Tetrazzini who lived from 1871 to 1940.
Could anyone have guessed that Melba Toast a crisp, dry and thinly sliced toast served with soups or salads or topped with various toppings, was named after Dame Nellie Melba, which was the stage name for Helen Porter Mitchell? It is believed that the toast dates back to 1897 when the singer was very ill and this type of toast became the main staple of her diet.
Another food created by the renowned French chef Auguste Escoffier in honor of Dame Melba is the Peach Melba, a dessert made with vanilla ice cream, peaches and a sauce raspberry sauce. In the late 1800's Escoffier created this luscious dessert for the popular Australian opera singer who was healthy and had a good appetite. It's made with two peach halves that have been poached in syrup and cooled. Each peach half is placed hollow side down on top of a scoop of vanilla ice cream, then topped with Melba sauce made with raspberries, redcurrant jelly, sugar and cornstarch and sometimes crowned with whipped cream and sliced almonds. Mmm, the stuff that makes angels sing.
But Dame Melba was not the only inspirer of heavenly desserts. Pavlova, a light and fluffy meringue dessert was named after the Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova. The sweetened meringue is baked at a very low heat for a long time, not to brown but to dry out and become very crispy before it becomes an edible vessel for whipped cream and fruit. Although it is named after the famous Russian ballerina, the originator of the dessert is not known for sure because of the great rivalry between Australians and New Zealanders who both claim that the recipe was born in their countries.
Not all famous dishes were born to a life of established glory. Some, like Sacher Torte, came to being under stress. Recognizable by the name of its creator written on a rich chocolate ganache cover, the famous torte is the creation of Franz Sacher (1816-1907) who, in his second year of baker's apprenticeship concocted this chocolate cake for the Lord of Metternich, because the latter commanded, "For ye shall not bring shame on me tonight !" Thus was born the glory of Sacher Torte.
In talking about foods inspired by eclectic characters, who can leave out the 1700 century English nobleman who ordered his servant to bring him two slices of bread with a piece of roast meat between them, so that he would not have to disrupt his card came? And the result? You guessed it. Next time, as we bite into our sandwiches whether they are made with whole grain or sun-dried panini, let's not forget to thank the Earl of Sandwich for his ingenious creation that fills millions of lunch bags.
Last but not least, Tarte Tatin, a product of serendipity, is an upside down apple tart with a layer of caramelized sugar which distinguishes it from other types of upside down pastries. The result of an almost cooking disaster, this tarte became a signature dish at the Hotel Tatin, run by the sisters Stephanie and Caroline Tatin, in Lamotte-Beuvron, France. The lasting fame of the pastry is attributed to the restauranteur Louis Vaudable who, after tasting the the tart on his visit to Sologne, made this dessert a permanent item in his restaurant, Maxim's of Paris.
Food origins which provoke the deepest interest have always been the ones that fascinate my imagination the most. So as we leave another winter behind and look towards spring and a new season of birth and renewal of hopes with Easter preparations in the kitchen, besides baking the traditional fare, let's see if anyone of us will take a little detour and express our thanks by remembering the fascinating origins of these dishes to thank to their inspirers or creators who are now part of culinary history.
1 Tablespoon butter
4 slices rye bread
4 slices deli sliced corned beef
4 slices Swiss cheese
1/2 cup sauerkraut, drained
1/4 cup Thousand Island dressing
Preheat a large skillet or griddle on medium heat.
Lightly butter one side of bread slices. Spread non-buttered sides with Thousand Island dressing. On 4 bread slices, layer 1 slice Swiss cheese, 2 slices corned beef, 1/4 cup sauerkraut and second slice of Swiss cheese. Top with remaining bread slices, buttered sides out.
Grill sandwiches until both sides are golden brown, about 15 minutes per side. Serve hot. Serves 2
Füsun Atalay ~ Copyright © Will of my Own - 2011