A lot of times we don’t realise that the food we’re about to eat is the invention of someones’ imagination, that some cooking virtuoso is behind that delicious concoction that you’re about the blindly stuff your face with. What’s worse is that, sometimes the origin and history of an ingenious dish is lost over the years, thanks to people who falsely claim themselves to be its creator.
While the origins of a number of dishes and cocktails are fiercely debated, there are a slew of prolific culinary staples that one should take an effort to find out how and why they got their names.
Here are a few dishes and cocktails that you might not have known, were named after real people.
1. The Peach Melba
Named after the Australian Opera singer, Nellie Melba
I fact, the legendary chef invented 3 more foods in Melba’s honour; the Melba sauce, a sweet purée of raspberries and red currant, Melba toast , a crisp dry toast and Melba Garniture, chicken, truffles and mushrooms stuffed into tomatoes with velouté sauce.
2. Beef Carpaccio
Named after Vittore Carpaccio, a Venetian painter known for signature red and white tones used in his works
In 1950, a Countess named Amalia Nani Mocenigo visited the famous Harry’s Bar in Venice. Giuseppe Cipriani, founder of Harry’s Bar , prepared the dish for her when she informed him that her doctor has advised her to consume more raw meat.
3. The Sachertorte
Named after Franz Sacher, then a 16 year old kitchen apprentice
In 1832, the Austrian Prince Wenzel von Metternich told his head chef to create a special dessert for several important guests. Because the head chef was ill, he transferred this responsibility to a 16 year old kitchen apprentice, one Franz Sacher, then into his second year in the kitchen of the prince.
The young chef managed to create a specific kind of chocolate cake with an apricot jam filling, which delighted all the guests. The recipe is still popular today, in fact, December 5 is even now known as “National Sachertorte Day” in Austria.
4. Eggs Benedict
Named after Lemuel Benedict, a dude looking for a hangover cure
A retired Wall Street stock broker, one Lemuel Benedict had wandered into the Waldorf Hotel in 1894 with a major hangover and, hoping to cure the same, he ordered toast, poached eggs, crisp bacon, and a hooker of hollandaise”.
Named after a woman called Marjorie King
It’s origin is debated , but mostly people agree that it was created in the late 1930s in a bar south of Tijuana by a bartender named Carlos “Danny” Herrera. He was said to have made it for a woman named Marjorie King, who was allergic to all booze except tequila.
Albert Hernandez, who is known for popularising Margaritas in San Diego after 1947, at the La Plaza restaurant in La Jolla has also corrobrated by stating that the owner of La Plaza, Morris Locke, knew Herrera and visited Mexico often.
6. Fetuccini Alfredo
Named after Alfredo de Lelio, a restaurateur in Rome
The Fettuccine Alfredo is a dish very Italian, born in Rome in 1914 in a restaurant in the path of Sow at the hands of its owner, Alfredo de Lelio, for his pregnant wife. He prepared the sauce by mixing cream, butter and loads of cheese and combining it with the fettuccine pasta.
Alfredo sauce is now sold at grocery stores as a convenience food for aiding pasta dishes.
7. Beef Stroganov
The name of the dish is probably derived from the important Russian family, the Stroganovs
The recipe for this dish was first seen in the classic Russian cookbook A Gift to Young Housewives written in 1861 written by Elena Molokhovet which gives the first known recipe for Beef à la Stroganov, with mustard”. The dish involved lightly floured beef cubes sautéed, sauced with prepared mustard and bouillon , and finished with a small amount of sour cream.
8. Dongpo Pork
Named after the famed Song dynasty poet, Su Dongpo
The dish is named after the famed Song dynasty poet Su Dongpo . According to one account , One day, he was cooking pork when a friend dropped by. Switching the fire to gentle heat, he left the kitchen to play chess with the visitor. So engrossed was he with the game that he forgot the cooking.
It was only at the end of the game he suddenly recalled the pork and rushed to the kitchen. Expecting to find the pork burnt to crisp, he was surprised by the aroma when the lid of the pot was lifted. The edible pork had a rich red colour , tender crispy but not flaky with a glutinous texture without the greasy taste. Henceforth, it became a regular dish for himself and his guests.
9. Pizza Margherita
Named after Queen Margherita of Savoy
Again, the origin of this famous dish is debated , but according to legend, in 1889, Queen Margherita of Savoy, made a visit to Naples, Italy and chef Raffaele Esposito of Pizzeria Brandi and his wife created 3 pizzas for her, out of which one had all the colors of the Italian flag in it; red from tomato, white from mozzarella cheese and green from the basil leaves.
The queen did not like the other two pizzas but liked this one and thus, this new concoction was named Pizza Margherita in her honour.
10. Bloody Mary
Named after Mary the first of England, who had earned the sobriquet “Bloody Mary ” due to her cruel deeds
Fernand Petiot, claimed to have invented the Bloody Mary in 1921 in Harry’s New York Bar in Paris. Back then, it was known as the ‘Red Snapper’ because it was so harsh. It wasn’t till 1933 that he added the secret ingredient Tabasco sauce into the cocktail, transforming it into the drink we all know today.
A competing origin story also exists which says that the cocktail was originally created by actor-producer George Jessel, and that Petiot simply added the finishing touches in 1939.
11. Kung Pao Chicken
Named after a late Qing Dynasty governor of Sichuan, Ding Baozhen
It is named after a late Qing Dynasty (late nineteenth century) governor of Sichuan, Ding Baozhen, who is said to have particularly enjoyed eating it — gong bao was his official title. The name “Kung Pao” chicken is derived from this title.
12. Tunday Ke Kebab
Named after the one armed chef Haji Murad Ali, who created this 160 spiced dish for a Nawab with no teeth
Although this one is not named after the person, but it is named after its makers’ disability.
There was once a Nawab who loved kebabs. But as age caught up with him, he lost his teeth and was unable to enjoy them. He setup a contest that whoever created the softest and most succulent kebabs would henceforth enjoy royal patronage. The secret recipe was created by Haji Murad Ali, who apparently had only one hand. Hence, the name Tunday Kebab . The recipe has 160 spices including Sandalwood. The recipe is a family secret and is passed down to the generations by the ladies of the house.
Named after John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, an 18th-century English aristocrat
The first written usage of the English word appeared in Edward Gibbon’s journal, referring to “bits of cold meat” as a “Sandwich”. It was named after John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich , an 18th-century English aristocrat . Thus, the food has his title, not his name.
It is said that the Earl asked for the particular serving so that he could eat while continuing to play cards. He asked that meat be tucked between two pieces of bread, so he could continue gambling without getting his cards greasy.
Named after Julius Michael Johannes Maggi, the inventor of precooked soups and Maggi sauce
Julius Maggi was born in 1846 to Michael Maggi, an immigrant from Italy, as the fifth child. He joined hands with physician Fridolin Schuler, who had a concept for improving the nutritional content of meals for the working classes by making packaged foods. But the plan failed to form, so Julius went back to the drawing board and created Maggi ready-to-use soups in 1886.
A few decades after Nestle acquired Maggi (in 1947), the instant noodles were launched in India in 1983, which we all know is a staple food in most Indian households today.
Named after the chef Ignacio Anaya, whose nickname was ‘Nacho’
Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya was working at a restaurant owned by Rudolfo de Los Santos, the Victory Club in Piedras Negras, Mexico. In 1943, the wives of U.S. soldiers stationed at nearby Eagle Pass were in Piedras Negras on a shopping trip, and arrived at the restaurant after it had already closed for the day. When Anaya couldn’t find the cook, he went into action.
Anaya cut the tortillas into triangles, fried them, added shredded cheddar cheese, quickly heated them, added sliced pickled jalapeño peppers. When the cutomers enquired what the name of the dish was, Anaya answered, “Nacho’s especiales “. The name was later shortened to simply “nachos”.
16. Caesar Salad
Named after Caesar Cardini, an Italian immigrant who owned restaurants in USA and Mexico
Caesar Cardini, an Italian immigrant who owned restaurants in the US and Mexico, is generally held to be the creator of the Caesar salad. According to his daughter , the dish was created when a Fourth of July rush in 1924 led to low stock in the Tijuana restaurant, and the kitchen’s few remaining ingredients were thrown together.