Ever wonder what it takes to get your name permanently affixed to a dish? It doesn’t hurt to invent a new delicacy that people just can’t stop eating, but for some people it’s just been a matter of being in the right place at the right time—and complimenting the chef on a job well done. Here are nine foods named after people, including Margherita pizza, Graham crackers, and nachos (yes, nachos).
1. Chicken a la King
While some stories trace the savior of leftover chicken’s roots back to London’s Claridge Hotel or the famed restaurant Delmonico’s, one particular tale is widely accepted. As the story goes, a chef named George Greenwald ran the restaurant at the ritzy Brighton Beach Hotel in Brooklyn around the turn of the 20th century. Greenwald liked to experiment in the kitchen, and one night he turned out a special chicken dish for the owners of the hotel. The proprietor and his wife adored the dish and encouraged Greenwald to add it to his menu. Greenwald was so delighted that his boss liked his new creation that he named it after the hotelier: E. Clark King.
2. Graham crackers
Sylvester Graham would not have gotten along very well with James Salisbury. Graham, a 19th-century diet proponent, felt that people should ingest mostly fruits, vegetables, and whole grains while avoiding meats and any sort of spice. The upside of all of this bland food sounds a bit curious to the modern reader: Graham thought his diet would keep his patients from having impure thoughts. Cleaner thoughts would lead to less masturbation, which would in turn help stave off blindness, pulmonary problems, and a whole host of other potential pitfalls that stemmed from moral corruption. Graham invented the cracker that bears his name as one of the staples of this anti-self-abuse diet.
3. Salisbury Steak
James Salisbury was a 19th-century American doctor with a rather kooky set of beliefs. According to Salisbury, fruits, vegetables, and starches were the absolute worst thing a person could eat, as they would produce toxins as our bodies digested them. The solution? A diet heavy on lean meats. To help his diet cause, Salisbury invented the Salisbury steak, which he recommended patients eat three times a day and wash down with a glass of hot water to aid digestion. Apparently the only people paying attention to the doctor’s orders were elementary school lunch ladies.
4. Cobb salad
Here’s a debate so fiery that even Curb Your Enthusiasm has tackled it. Although there are numerous origin stories for this main-course salad, it seems that most people generally agree the concoction bears the name of Robert Cobb, the former proprietor of Hollywood’s Brown Derby restaurant.There are a number of stories about how Cobb actually invented the salad, though. The one most frequently repeated is that in 1937, a hungry Cobb went to his restaurant’s kitchen for a midnight snack and ended up improvising a delicious salad with what he found in the fridge. His buddy Sid Grauman, the owner of the landmark Grauman’s Chinese Theater, was with Cobb on the night he got the munchies, and started ordering “Cobb’s salads” when he came in to eat at the Brown Derby.
5. Beef Stroganoff
The creamy beef dish supposedly takes its name from Count Pavel Stroganov, a 19th-century Russian statesman and military leader who commanded a division in the Napoleonic Wars. Stroganov’s family was one of Russia’s most wealthy and influential, so he certainly had the clout to get a namesake dish. It’s not totally clear, though, at what point the dish sprang into existence. Some sources credit an 1890 culinary competition—which seems unlikely because Count Pavel was long dead at that point—but the beef dish is mentioned in written records at least as far back as the 1860s.
Yep, there really was a guy named Nacho. In 1943 Ignacio Anaya—better known by his nickname “Nacho”—was working at the Victory Club in Piedras Negras, Mexico, just over the border from Eagle Pass, Texas. As the story goes, there were a lot of American servicemen stationed at Fort Duncan near Eagle Pass, and one evening a large group of soldiers’ wives came into Nacho’s restaurant as he was closing down.Nacho didn’t want to turn the women away with empty stomachs, but he was too low on provisions to make a full dinner. So he improvised. Nacho Anaya supposedly cut up a bunch of tortillas, sprinkled them with cheddar and jalapenos and popped them in the oven. The women were so delighted with the nachos especiales that the snack quickly spread throughout Texas.
7. Fettucine Alfredo
The Italian favorite has been around for centuries, but it supposedly took on its current form around 1914 when Alfredo di Lelio upped the amount of butter in the recipe in an attempt to find something his pregnant wife would enjoy eating. Di Lelio realized that his buttery cheese sauce was extraordinarily tasty, so he started serving it to tourists at his Rome restaurant and named the dish after himself.
8. Margherita pizza
This deliciously simple pizza is named after Margherita of Savoy, who was Queen consort of Italy from 1878 until 1900 during the reign of her husband, King Umberto I. In 1889, Umberto and Margherita took a vacation to Naples and visited renowned pizza chef Raffaele Esposito, who cooked the royal couple three special pizzas. Margherita particularly enjoyed one that had used mozzarella, tomato, and basil to mimic the colors the Italian flag, so Esposito named the dish in her honor.
9. Bananas Foster
In 1951, Richard Foster had a tough job. He was the chairman of a New Orleans crime commission that was trying to clean up the French Quarter, and he also ran his own business, the Foster Awning Company. When Foster was hungry, he would often head in to his friend Owen Brennan’s restaurant, Brennan’s, and happily wolf down whatever chef Paul Blange was making. When Chef Blange invented a new dessert of flaming bananas, he named it after his owner’s buddy and frequent customer.
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