Food named after people

There's a famous new guest on Downton Abbey this weekend (Sunday 6 October). The latest to regale the Granthams is Dame Nellie Melba, a real-life globally renowned Australian soprano, played by the equally lauded New Zealand soprano Dame Kiri Te Kanawa.

But that's not the only reason she's a star in our eyes. No. The delicious, summery, peach, raspberry and ice-cream dessert known as peach melba is named after her.

Since we would love for a dish to be named after us, we decided to investigate the other lucky folks who have sealed their name on a menu.

Words: Sejal Kapadia, Image credit: Rex Features

  • Peach Melba

    The classic dessert was invented in honour of Nellie Melba in the 1890s by legendary French chef Auguste Escoffier at the Savoy Hotel, while she was a guest during her performances in Covent Garden. As the story goes, Nellie sent Escoffier tickets to her show which featured a beautiful boat in the shape of a swan. The following evening, Escoffier presented Nellie with fresh peaches served over vanilla ice cream and a swan carved from ice. A new dessert was born.

  • Margherita pizza

    According to legend, when Queen Margherita visited Naples in 1889 one of the most famous pizza-makers in the area, Raffaele Esposito, created a pizza for her. He used basil, mozzarella and tomato to represent the colours of the Italian flag. The Queen loved it so much he named it after her.

  • Beef wellington

    The classic English dish of a beef wrapped in puff pastry is supposedly named after Arthur Wellesley, the 1st Duke of Wellington who was famous for defeating Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815. The finished joint was thought to resemble a new type of boot that was also named after him – Wellington boots.

  • Pavlova

    The meringue-based dessert is named after the famous Russian ballet dancer Anna Pavlova. It is thought to have been created in either New Zealand or Australia after her tours in the 1920s.

  • Sandwich

    According to one account, on Nov. 3, 1762, the Earl of Sandwich was deep into a marathon poker game and couldn't be bothered to leave the gaming table for dinner. As a solution, he asked a servant to bring him a piece of meat stuffed between two slices of toast so he wouldn't smear food on his cards. Presenting what is today known as the sandwich...

  • Victoria Sponge

    As a child, Queen Victoria wasn't often allowed sweet things. On the throne, however, she made up for lost time. Afternoon tea was becoming a growing concept at the time and every week Victoria's royal residencies received a consignment of pastries and cakes from the Buckingham Palace kitchens. It's said she loved a slice of strawberry and cream cake with her cup of tea.

  • Nachos

    Ignacio Anaya worked at a restaurant called The Victory Club in Piedras Negras (a small Mexican town across the border from Texas) and is credited as the first person to assemble a plate of nachos. When a group of American military officers' wives who lived nearby visited for a bite to eat, he whipped together toasted tortilla, cheese and jalapeno peppers, according to The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink. Ignacio was often called Nacho for short, so when the ladies asked for the name of the dish it’s claimed he replied, "Nacho's especiales" (Nacho’s speciality).

  • Beef carpaccio

    The dish was invented in 1950 by the owner of Harry’s Bar in Venice, a go-to place for the rich and famous. It was named after the celebrated Venetian Renaissance painter Vittore Carpaccio whose paintings featured a particularly meaty shade of red. This lent an air of glamour to a relatively simple preparation.

  • Omelette Arnold Bennett

    Chefs at the Savoy hotel invented this dish – so legend has it – while Arnold Bennett was staying at the hotel to write his final novel, Imperial Palace (1930). The author liked the egg, smoked haddock and parmesan concoction so much he insisted it be prepared for him wherever he travelled. Omelette Arnold Bennett remains a standard dish at the Savoy to this day.

  • Oysters Rockefeller

    Seeking an alternative to hard-to-come-by French escargots, chefs at Antoine’s restaurant in New Orleans created the dish – baked oysters topped with a buttery green sauce and breadcrumbs – in 1889. They named it after John D Rockefeller, then the richest man in America, on account of the richness of the sauce.

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