January 13: National Peach Melba Day

Happy Peach Melba Day! Wait, what the hell is Peach Melba? And why is its National Day nowhere near peach season? 

Photo licensed via Creative Commons by Flickr Member  Eric Molina

Photo licensed via Creative Commons by Flickr Member Eric Molina

Good questions. Well, I have no idea about the latter, but I can tell you about the former, and a few more things, too. Enjoy!

Six interesting facts about Peach Melba

1. Peach melba is a dessert.

Peach Melba is a dessert composed of peaches atop ice cream, with a raspberry sauce. Sometimes with slivered almonds. I guess that makes it like a sundae, but not a sundae? A health food sundae. How about that.

2. It was named after a singer.

Australian Soprano Nellie Melba was all the rage in the late 1890s, and wherever she went to perform, it caused quite a flurry. When she deigned London with a visit in 1892, famed pastry chef Auguste Escoffier, who at the time was making dessert at the Savoy Hotel (and who had a penchant for naming desserts after ladies: Poires Mary Garden is another example), created a special dessert inspired by the singer, composed of (a fancy version of) peaches atop vanilla ice cream. 

3. For authentic presentation, you need an ice sculpture.

Apparently, when the dessert was presented, it was not in any old bowl, but in an ice sculpture of a swan. The sweet little swan (inspired by the opera in which Ms. Melba was performing) acted as a bowl, carrying vanilla ice cream topped with peaches and spun sugar. 

4. This is not the only food named after Nellie Melba.

When you're a big deal, you have a food named after you. When you're a really big deal, you have more than one food named after you. Guess what? The same person who inspired a tasty peaches and cream dessert also inspired the name for...dry toast. Yep: Melba toast is named after the same person as Peach Melba! Apparently, during times of sickness, Nellie Melba really only ate dry toast. Her association with this deeply boring food apparently caught on, and commercial varieties now bear her name. 

5. It has an interesting history.

Read about it in this awesome entry on toriavey.com

6. You can make it as a cake.

Too cold for ice cream? I understand. Enjoy the Peach Melba concept in cake form! Epicurious has a nice-looking recipe

P.S. This is not the only dessert named after a person! I have a rather nifty roundup of Desserts Named After People, which you can view here.

Have you ever tried Peach Melba?