By Gini Rainey
I always find it interesting how different people have different names for the same things. I think this is part of what makes social interaction with new people such an adventure. From friends to friends, generation to generations, and even family to family, we seem to all come up with variations on themes. For instance, the many different names given to infant pacifiers comes to mind: passie, binky, plug, dummy, bo-bo, nookie, and more. Our babies called them binkies (Binky being a name-brand), but none of our friends’ babies did. I almost hugged someone recently when they referred to their baby’s pacifier as a binky. It was great to find someone who spoke the “same” language – at least as far as pacifiers are concerned!
So with that thought in mind, it’s easy to imagine all of the variations on a theme different dishes might be called. Then, if you want to really make yourself crazy, try to figure out why they are called that! One of the more interesting names for a casserole my mom would make is “Growlie.” A simple pasta/tomato casserole made with vermicelli, canned diced tomatoes, pinto beans, onions, and more, my kids labeled it Growlie –you know, because when you smell it cooking your tummy starts growling. Easy enough to understand where that name came from, right?
For some of the more well-known recipes out there, I’m sure there have been times when someone, somewhere has wondered where the heck its name came from. We all know about sandwiches theoretically being named after John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich who asked his valet to bring him meat tucked between two slices of bread to keep his pinkies clean while playing a game of cards. But for some of those other oddly named dishes, James Winter has written a very interesting book “Who Put the Beef in Wellington?” that not only gives the history behind a lot of the dishes, but also the recipes. Published in 2013 by Kyle Books, this book is a virtual compendium of famous dishes and their history. It’s filled with lots of historical information along with great, color photos of the food.
Starting with the title dish, although there is no actual recorded history of the development of this dish, it is assumed that it refers to the man who crushed Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo. Requiring military precision to be executed successfully, Beef Wellington is one of the most stunning pieces of British cuisine in existence. Waldorf Salad, a simple mixture of mayonnaise, celery, walnuts, and apples on a bed of lettuce was created by Oscar Tshirky, the maître d’ at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in NYC, and incorporated a few of his favorite things, thus creating that hotel’s signature dish on the occasion of its opening. Sole Veronique is a dish that was created accidentally by Auguste Escoffier, who began cooking at the age of 13 at his uncle’s restaurant in Nice. A veritable sorcerer in the kitchen, he later moved to London’s Carlton Hotel, created this dish and named it after London’s new big show in 1903, Gilbert and Sullivan’s Veronique, cashing in on theater crowd that would come in to dine after the show. Of course, as you can imagine, the light and airy meringue/fruit dish Pavlova was named after the lovely ballerina Anna Pavlova. Pizza Margherita, the thin crusted disk of bread topped with tomato sauce, cheese, basil, and various other ingredients was named after Queen Margherita of Italy.
I love this story about the creation of Caesar Salad. Back in the 1920s, during Prohibition, There was a whole lot of boot-legging going on in our country, but one of the more law-abiding citizens, Caesar Cardini who, from his restaurant in San Diego, California, looked enviously down the road to Mexico, where there was definitely a different attitude towards drinking. So Caesar and his brother Alex decided to open their second Caesar’s Italian restaurant just across the border in Tijuana. It wasn’t long before the stars of stage and screen were rushing down to Caesar’s to eat and drink. The story goes that on July 4, 1925, there were so many of them there that, although there was plenty of liquor, food supplies were running short, leaving not much more than lettuce in the fridge. So, Caesar came up with the idea of preparing a salad at the tables and with a flourish began making and serving the house “Specialty Salad.”
You can impress your guests by preparing this salad from scratch at your next dinner party. Start by pouring 6 tablespoons of olive oil into a saucepan and add 1 large garlic clove, peeled. Don’t fry the garlic, rather simmer it to bring it to room temperature and bring the oil to body temperature, then set aside. Now put 1 large egg into a saucepan of cold water and bring to a boil. Boil for 1 minute, then run under cold water. Crack the egg into a food processor; add the garlic, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce. Process well and add freshly ground pepper to taste. Tear up 1 washed and well drained Romaine lettuce into a bowl, pour the dressing over the lettuce and add croutons and 1 tablespoon coarsely grated fresh Parmesan cheese and serve. Yummmm!