There’s no debate that a poached egg sat atop bacon or ham on a toasted English muffin and topped with Hollandaise sauce bears this name. But who was Benedict? There are conflicting claims, but the most plausible suggests it was named after a glamorous New York stockbroker called Lemuel Benedict who, looking for a hangover cure while breakfasting at the Waldorf Hotel in 1894, was served this very combination.
These currant-encrusted biscuits were first manufactured by Huntley & Palmer in 1864 and named after the Italian general Guiseppe Garibaldi who visited Britain that year. As John Parris, author of the Garibaldi biography The Lion Of Caprera, notes, the General’s visit – which followed his success in unifying Italy – was ecstatically received. “The whole country, apart from Queen Victoria and Karl Marx, rose to greet him.”
Although sponge cakes can be found in English-language recipe books as early as 1615, it was the court of Queen Victoria that accelerated their popularity. The Duchess of Bedford, one of Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting, is credited with creating the concept of taking afternoon tea, during which time (having been denied sweet foods as a child) the queen showed greatest affection for the classic sponge filled with cream and jam.
Australia and New Zealand have slugged it out for decades over which is the country of origin of the meringue-based dessert. What’s not in doubt is that its inherent lightness is a nod to the similarly light Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova in whose honour it was named. The pud first appeared on Antipodean restaurant menus in 1926, the year of her first tour Down Under.
This wasn’t created in honour of Wellington’s victory over Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815; beef wrapped in pastry was already on the menu at that time, especially in France where it was known as filet de boeuf en croûte. Food historian Leah Hyslop suggests that its new name was a snook-cocking Anglicisation of French cuisine, “a timely patriotic rebranding of a trendy continental dish”.
Cherry Garcia ice cream
In 1987, Ben & Jerry’s launched its massively popular Cherry Garcia flavour of ice cream, named after the Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia. The name had been suggested anonymously on a postcard from a Dead fan from Maine. When she was eventually tracked down, the mystery woman was rewarded with a lifetime’s supply of ice cream.
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Having received tickets to see the Australian soprano Nellie Melba perform in London’s Covent Garden in 1892, the celebrated French chef Auguste Escoffier returned the favour by creating a dessert for the singer when she dined at the Savoy Hotel the following evening. But it wasn’t until eight years later, by which time he’d moved on to The Ritz, that Escoffier added raspberry puree to the recipe and named it after the future Dame Nellie.
When Queen Margherita, the wife of the Italian king Umberto I, made a visit to Naples in 1889, she couldn’t have predicted that her trip would be immortalised in food. But to honour her visit, a chef by the name of Raffaele Esposito created a new pizza that mirrored the Italian tricolour – tomato for the red, basil for the green and mozzarella for the white – and which he named after her royal highness
This meal has many origin stories, but two, both relating to the Russian Stroganov dynasty, are the most popular. The first is that Charles Briere, an employee in a Stroganov kitchen, won a cooking contest with the dish in 1891. The second, from a few decades earlier, recalls how the chef to Count Grigory Stroganov solved the problem of what to cook his toothless boss. A meal with soft mushrooms and tender steak was one with which the Count’s gnasher-free mouth could cope.