Have you ever stopped in mid-bite of that well made sandwich and wondered, "Why is it called a 'sandwich'?" There is a story to it. In fact, there is a story to nearly every meal that has an official name and not just one Mom gave it after throwing it together. Some stories are more interesting than others, such as foods that are made by great chefs rather than ones that are manufactured by big companies and just given a random name.
Foods like Fettucini Alfredo and General Tso's Chicken have stories about the people they were made by or the heroes that they were named after. Sure, anyone can have their name on a plaque or in a history book, but it takes some true genius to get your name attached to a food and have it last through the ages.
This is probably both the most famous food and the most famous story about food named after a person. This lovely anytime favorite food of everyone is named after John Montegu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich. John Montegu was a British statesman and compulsive gambler during the 1700's. It is a good thing he is remembered by his legendary, though argued, invention of the sandwich, as otherwise he would not have been remembered very well for his political and military career. His career was littered with incompetence and corruption supposedly; however some argue that the sources for this information often came from his political enemies.
Regardless, the 4th Earl of Sandwich did one thing frequently (though doubtfully well), which was gamble. His gambling sessions were rumored to go on for days. During this time, he often had little time for meals, so he would order his servants to bring him meat between two slices of bread so he could eat with one hand and play cards with the other. After awhile, his gambling friends caught onto the trend and started ordering 'the same as Sandwich,' thus the sandwich was created.
Be thankful he was referred to as the Earl of Sandwich or we could all be eating Montegus right now.
For some reason, many Americans believe Eggs Benedict to be named after the famous Revolutionary War traitor Benedict Arnold. It is true that Eggs Benedict is named after an American, but not Benedict Arnold. Instead they are named after their creator Lemuel Benedict--a New York socialite and retired stock broker in 1942.
Lemuel Benedict returned to the Waldorf-Astoria after a long night of drinking in town with an idea in his head. He asked the maitre d'hotel for a very specific hangover remedy. Benedict requested a piece of toast, topped with a poached egg, bacon, then slathered in Hollandaise sauce. Of course, drunks are geniuses when it comes to creating amazing food and the maitre d'hotel recognized this, so he put the item on the menu, named after Benedict. However, the hotel substituted ham for bacon and an English muffin for toast for no verified reason.
As for its effectiveness as a hangover cure, there's been no comment.
James Salisbury was a doctor in the 1800s and may have been minorly remembered as that except for his penchant for radical medical treatments involving what we ate which led to the invention of the Salisbury steak. James Salisbury was a doctor and chemist in the 1800's and served as a doctor during the American Civil War. It was there his theories that linked aliments to food began. Salisbury became convinced that diarrhea of soldiers could be controlled with a diet of lean chopped beef steak and coffee.
Anyone who has ever drank too much coffee can feel pity for those poor soldiers.
In later years, Salisbury believed that vegetables and starchy food created poisonous substances in the digestive tract that caused aliments such as tuberculosis and heart disease. He believed that fruits, vegetables, fats, and starches should be limited to one third of the diet while the other three fourths should be meat. Yes, by modern standards, he may not have been a great doctor.
His namesake food, the Salisbury steak, perfectly fit his dietary recommendations. So in 1888, Dr. Salisbury began prescribing it to his patients to prevent a varied aliments.
Alfredo Di Lelio was an Italian chef and perhaps set the stereotype for all Italian chefs, what with his glorious knobbed mustache and all. However, regardless of whether he set the bar for stereotypes or not, Di Lelio was a great guy, which is reflected in his namesake dish Fettuccini Alfredo. As the story goes, Di Lelio's wife was left weak after childbirth and was having trouble keeping down food. Di Lelio wanted to help her in the only way he could, with his food. He whipped up a sauce from cream, butter and Parmesan cheese, which he then slathered on fettuccini noodles. Thus a wonderful (and popular) Italian recipe was born.
After his wife began to keep food down again, Di Lelio added it to the menu of his restaurant. The recipe really took off in the United States after Hollywood couple Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford tried it at his restaurant on their Honeymoon and fell in love.
There is a legendary and heartily argued story about Chicken Marengo. As the story goes, this dish was prepared for Napoleon by his chef Durand after Napoleon defeated Austrian forces at the Battle of Marengo in Italy. The story states that Durand created the dish out of whatever he could find in the area and served it to Napoleon. He loved it so much, that he ordered it to be made after every battle. When Durand became better supplied, he substituted mushrooms for crayfish and added wine to the dish. However, Napoleon thought the change would bring bad luck and refused to eat it.
However, many refute this legend on the sole fact that tomatoes (a main ingredient in the dish) would not have been available at the time. However, according to A History of the Tomato in Italy by David Gentlecore, the tomato made its appearance in Italy in 1548, well before the 1800's when the Battle of Marengo took place. While there are many who believe the story, others often claim that Chicken Marengo was merely an invention of a restaurant to honor Napoleon though neither can be officially confirmed.