THE BLOG
04/16/2013 05:43 pm ET | Updated Jun 12, 2013

From Caesar Salad to Crepe Suzette, What's in a Name?

Click here to read an original op-ed from the TED speaker who inspired this post and watch the TEDTalk below.

Food is as much entitled to a proper history as castles, wars, kings, queens, art, literature, and the bubonic plague is. On studying food history books for about a year -- books dating back a few centuries -- I found the development of food, and then cuisines as it moved through Italy and France over latter years, a fascinating subject. The fact is that great events in history such as Marco Polo's discovery of the spice routes during the 13th century and the subsequent Italian Renaissance followed by the French Revolution has played such a big part in the development, and spread, of new cuisines. And that meant it was, of course, right up my street as a historian.

But, rather that retelling the stories of how the ancient Egyptians, followed by the Romans, who developed cooking techniques that gradually made its way across the known world a thousand and more years ago, techniques such as bread, beer and cheese-making that have barely changed today, I wanted to know who Margherita was, and why the world's most famous pizza was named after her? And everybody loves a Crepe Suzette but who was Suzette?

In fact I doubt there is anybody on the planet who hasn't enjoyed Peach Melba ice cream at some point, or spread something on Melba toast, so wouldn't it be a great idea to tell the story of the marvelous opera singer Dame Nellie Melba and why such iconic foods were created for her and named in her honor, how American Prohibition was responsible for a few classic dishes, such as Caesar Salad and Cobb Salad and we learn some literature in the shape of an Omelette Arnold Bennett or the medieval rivalries between the Welsh and the English that gave us Welsh Rabbit.

Folk from all walks of life still love a cup of tea in the afternoon and a former Prime Minister, Earl Grey, had a lot to do with that, as you will see, and how refreshing it is to find out that American classic, the hamburger, is, in fact, German, as is the classic hot dog. -- Albert Jack

Along the way we encounter the beauty of ballet and find out about the greatest of them all Anna Pavlova. Or, what exactly Horseradish Sauce has to do with our equine friends and would you really eat Toad in the Hole? One of the greatest English traditions is afternoon tea. Folk from all walks of life still love a cup of tea in the afternoon and a former Prime Minister, Earl Grey, had a lot to do with that, as you will see, and how refreshing it is to find out that American classic, the hamburger, is, in fact, German, as is the classic hot dog.

You also might enjoy the story of the Battle of Marengo after which Napoleon ordered his chefs to prepare a celebration meal. But the chefs had lost half of their kitchen in the confusion of battle and had to knock something together for their emperor with whatever they could find. Not an easy task minutes after a battle ground slaughter and that is why such unusual ingredients like chicken, egg and crayfish are all on the same plate of Chicken Marengo. On the subject of war, how about the Tartar Warriors and their raw meat rations that have led to a famous dish bearing their name?

So, dear reader, food is a fascinating journey through the history of food revealing all the big characters, and places like the Thousand Islands holiday resort that invented a famous seafood dressing by accident and I will also be revealing why Julius Caesar had nothing to do with Caesar Salad.

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