In addition to the immense bounty that nature has offered up since the dawn of time, there have been countless food products created over the centuries and, though we rarely stop to think about it, every single one of them was invented by someone.
Some of those edibles were happy accidents, others took years of trial and error. The exact origins of the vast majority of foods have been lost, but we’ve tracked down some pretty cool stories about a few.
Just about every food on earth has an interesting story behind it. Even modern-day apples developed through millennia of cross-planting and engineering to make them big and sweet instead of small and bitter. The humble hamburger was imported from
Germany as a spiced patty of ground beef, and it took years for it to catch on as a sandwich. Hot dogs have their origins in centuries-old sausage recipes, pizza started as an ancient Roman flatbread, stews started as ways for peasants to tenderize cheap cuts of meat, and so on. Every dish has a story to tell.
While the exact moment when a dish came into the world is usually lost to history, sometimes we’re fortunate enough to know exactly when and how it was invented. Usually this is because something in the name of the dish gives it away, like the person or place it’s named for.
Oftentimes we don’t even give second thought to why, for example, a Parker House roll is called a Parker House roll (they’re named after Boston’s Parker House Hotel), or who Melba was in peach Melba and Melba toast (It was popular Victorian-era singer Dame Nellie Melba). But everything was named for a reason, and it usually has something to do with its inventor.
So read on to learn about the origins of famous foods. And the next time you order nachos, you can call them by the inventor’s proper name, Ignacio.
1. Caesar Salad
This popular salad actually had nothing to do with Julius Caesar; it was invented by chef Caesar Cardini in the restaurant at his Tijuana hotel, Hotel Caesar.
2. Eggs Benedict
So who exactly was Benedict, anyway? There are two theories: One, a stockbroker named Lemuel Benedict claimed to have thought up the dish while nursing a hangover at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria in 1894. Two, Delmonico’s head chef Charles Ranhofer claimed that he invented it for the stockbroker LeGrand Benedict. Either way, Benedict had an awesome first name.
Nachos were invented by a (now-legendary) maître d’ named Ignacio Anaya, who whipped up the first batch for a group of hungry U.S. military wives at a restaurant called the Victory Club in Piedras Negras, Mexico, near Fort Duncan. He fried up some tortilla chips, topped them with some shredded Cheddar and sliced jalapeños, and served them as canapés. He named them after his nickname, Nacho, and the rest is history.
4. Reuben Sandwich
This hot sandwich of corned beef, Swiss cheese, Russian dressing, and sauerkraut on rye has a couple of different origin stories. One claims that a grocer named Reuben Kulakofsky invented the sandwich to accompany his weekly poker game at Omaha, Nebraska’s Blackstone hotel. Another account holds that it was created by Arnold Reuben, the owner of a famous New York deli named Reuben’s. Either way, it’s one tasty and gutbusting sandwich.
5. Graham Crackers
Sylvester Graham was a Presbyterian minister in the 1800s, and a big proponent of the puritan lifestyle. To that end, he invented this rather simple cracker, and would probably be appalled to learn that people are today regularly defile them with chocolate and marshmallows.
Check out more food histories you never knew.
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