Today is National Peach Melba Day! When I saw this on the calendar I was a little worried. It sounds like one of those fancy, complicated desserts that entails a lot of time and effort. Fortunately, it’s pretty simple: a scoop of vanilla ice cream, topped with half a peach, and drizzled in raspberry puree. Now, that is do-able!
Peach Melba was created in 1892 by French chef Auguste Escoffier at the Savoy Hotel in London. Auguste apparently had the hots for a famous Australian opera singer, Dame Nellie Melba, who was a real diva. The type of gal whose rider stipulates she must have a bowl full of green M&Ms before every performance of Figaro. In an effort to impress her, the chef created a dessert in her honor. Most guys would’ve settled for a bunch of flowers or a schmaltzy card, but not this dude. His creation was served in an ice sculpture shaped like a swan, an ode to Wagner’s Lohengrin, the opera in which Nellie was performing. In one scene, the knight Lohengrin arrives in a boat pulled by swans. Escoffier’s swan carried ice cream topped with peaches and spun sugar, and was served at a dinner party in Nellie’s honor. This ploy might have gotten him to second base and beyond, but rumor has it Nellie shied away from eating anything cold for fear that it would damage her delicate vocal cords. Poor Auguste. This is what we call a FAIL. No word on whether she indulged in the treat named after her, but her career continued until 1930, so it’s safe to say her voice suffered no ill effects from eating ice cream served in ice.
By the way, five years later, Escoffier again attempted to impress Nellie by creating Melba toast for her. There happens to be a National Melba Toast Day coming up on March 23rd, so we’ll be revisiting this fascinating tale in a couple of months. Hang tight until then…you’ll just have to wait and see if Auguste ever did woo his lady!
Mr. Escoffier wisely realized it would be a real pain in the ass to carve an ice sculpture into the shape of a swan every time he served Peach Melba, so he changed it up a little and began serving it in a regular bowl, topped with a raspberry beret. The kind you find in a secondhand store. Err, sorry – Prince on the brain. He topped it with a raspberry puree! Good thing for us, too. My ice-carving skills leave much to be desired.
Since fresh peaches weren’t in season, we were forced to use canned. And of course raspberries are also more readily available in the summer months so we substituted frozen. None of this mattered, though. The dessert was easy to assemble, and tasted pretty good considering nothing was fresh!
- Jellied Peach Melba (sal9kshaw.wordpress.com)
- Pretty Peach Melbas by Robin Sue of Big Red Kitchen | Babble (babble.com)