On a recent holiday to Turkey this year I was introduced to a very delicious soup — the Ezgolin soup. It looked quite similar to dal but was unique in its texture and minty taste. Knowing I could probably never taste it again unless I learnt to prepare it, I made a beeline to the Internet and sourced its recipe. In the process what I also came across was a quaint story behind the soup’s name, which translates into Ezo the bride.
So the story goes like this — Ezo was a beautiful, young, Turkish woman who lived in a village in Anatolia in the early 20th century. It is said that she was so beautiful that many men longed to marry her. But when she did marry, it was an unhappy union. Her first husband was in love with another woman and she divorced him on grounds of maltreatment. She married again and went to Syria with her husband where she became extremely homesick and had to deal with a difficult mother-in-law. Ironically, it was for the tough mother-in-law that Ezo created this soup. Her name lives on in this popular soup, which is now traditionally fed to brides (gelin) to sustain them for the uncertain future that lies ahead.
This lore made me wonder about the stories behind foods named after people or places. My research into the names of some famous dishes that I have eaten threw up a few nuggets of information — some proven, others unconfirmed, but all interesting.
Caesar Salad: Contrary to the popular notion the name of this popular salad is not attributed to Julius Caesar. It has been named after an Italian restaurateur Caesar Cardini who operated restaurants in Mexico and the United States. During the 4th of July celebrations in 1924, to cater to the growing rush of customers Cardini had to make do with what he had left in his kitchen. So he ended up creating a salad of lettuce, parmesan cheese, eggs, olive oil, lemon juice, pepper and Worcestershire sauce. Since he knew the dish was fairly simple, he made a great show of ‘tossing’ it all together in front of the customers and so the Caesar salad was born.
Sully Lunn Bun: It is a type of bread originating in Bath in Somerset, England, the place made famous by its Roman Baths and novels by Jane Austen. The recipe for this delicious bread reached English shores in the 17th century courtesy a French migrant named Sally Lunn. It is a rich round and generous brioche bun similar to the historic French festival ‘breads’ — quite buttery and slightly sweet. It can be had as an accompaniment with sweet or savoury dishes or just spread with butter, jam and clotted cream. It is still prepared at the same establishment where it was made originally — it is called Sally Lunn’s house.
Beef Wellington: The origin of the name is unclear. Some theories suggest the dish is named after Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington, the man who defeated Napolean at Waterloo. But there are other accounts which credit the name to a patriotic chef wanting to give an English name to a variation of the French filet de bœuf en croûte during the Napoleonic Wars.
Still another theory is that the dish is not named after the Duke himself, but rather to his footwear! Apparently the finished filet was thought to resemble one of the brown shiny military boots which were named after the Duke.
Pavlova: Speaking of Wellington, this sweet dish in discussion was created in Wellington, New Zealand. A Pavlova is a meringue-based dessert which has a crisp crust and is soft and light inside. It was named after the Russian ballet dancer Anna Pavlova. According to reports, a hotel chef in Wellington created the dish when Pavlova visited there in 1926 on her world tour.
Of course the list above contains a tiny percentage of the number of dishes out there that bear a person or place’s name. However, I can’t populate these pages with all of them, but no reason why you can’t find some on your own and learn more about their origin and history!