Food & Nutrition

How 16 Iconic Foods Got Their Name

Try not to start salivating as you dig into the history behind the human-inspired handles of the following popular dishes and desserts.

Eggs Benedict

Eggs Benedict with little salad, milk and fresh herbsStepanek Photography/Shutterstock

The history of invention is riddled with dueling claims. The credit for who created this classic brunch dish and why is no different, but most people agree that the country’s most notorious traitor Benedict Arnold had nothing to do with it. Eggs Benedict first hit plates in important New York establishments post-Civil War, during the time known as the Gilded Age. One legend holds that a regular patron of Delmonico’s (the very first public dining room/restaurant in the United States), Mrs. LeGrand Benedict, consulted chef Charles Ranhofer when she couldn’t find anything on the menu she wanted. He allegedly came up with the recipe for the dish that was subsequently published in his 1894 cookbook. Another story has it that in 1894, Wall Street broker Lemuel Benedict walked into the Waldorf Astoria Hotel after a night of partying and requested “buttered toast, bacon, two poached eggs, and a hooker of hollandaise,” according to a 1942 New Yorker interview. Chef Oscar Tschirky liked the concept so much that he added it to the breakfast and luncheon rotations. It was supposedly Chef Tschirky that substituted Canadian bacon. If you’re a fan of eggs, here are 55 delicious ways to have them with any meal.

Peach Melba and Melba Toast

Bowl of Peach Melba - vanilla ice cream with peaches and raspberry sauceAlexander Prokopenko/Shutterstock

Australian opera singer Dame Nellie Melba inspired one of the most revered chefs of all time, Auguste Escoffier, to whip up not one, but two dishes in her honor. According to PBS’ The History Kitchen series, the French gastronomy genius says he first made peach Melba, a simple dessert of poached peaches, raspberry sauce, and vanilla ice cream, when Dame Melba was staying at the Savoy Hotel where he worked at the time. To further honor the diva, he also created Melba toast, a very crunchy bread cooked under low heat until golden brown. Check out the surprising birthplaces of 20 favorite foods and drinks.

Cobb Salad

Crisp fresh lettuce with cherry tomatoes, bacon, and hardboiled egg adorn a chicken Cobb SaladJoyce Marrero/Shutterstock

East Coast and West Coast rivalries go way back and include chefs competing for salad fame: The chef’s salad originated in the East, but, according to lore, the Cobb salad was conceived in 1937 by Bob Cobb, the owner of The Brown Derby. He needed to feed Sid Grauman, owner of the now landmark Chinese Theatre. Rumor has it that Cobb tossed together a salad with things he foraged from the fridge—a head of lettuce, an avocado, some romaine, watercress, tomatoes, cold chicken breast, a hard-boiled egg, chives, cheese, and old-fashioned French dressing—before adding some crisp bacon to top it off. A salad star was born, and it quickly became a mainstay on the Derby’s menu.

Lobster Newburg

Lobster Newburg with Toast and LemonMonkey Business Images/Shutterstock

Remember Delmonico’s in Manhattan? As America’s first restaurant—opening in New York in 1837—the establishment gets credit as the birthplace of this elegant saucy seafood entrée, according to the New York Times. It was originally known as lobster a la Wenberg after a wealthy sea captain who imported fruit from Cuba and frequented Delmonico’s. One day in 1876, he stopped in to brag about his discovery of a new way to cook the shellfish. He demonstrated in a chafing dish and had owner Charles Delmonico taste it. Delmonico added it to the menu, naming it after its creator. But months later the two had a falling out and Delmonico banished Wenberg, taking the dish off the menu. But by this point, it was a favorite among the regulars who continued to request it. Delmonico swapped the “w” and the “n” and rechristened the dish Lobster Newberg, then added it back to the rotation. Lobster lovers should check out these road trips fit for foodies.

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