27 Feb /13

Peach Melba

Peach Melba is a combination of Australia, high opera and top cuisine.

Nellie Mitchell was a soprano who was not very successful in Melbourne, so she tried her luck in Europe. She became hugely successful, particularly in Paris, London and New York. She became known as Nellie from Melbourne and so Nellie Melba.

One of the most famous chefs of all time was the Frenchman, Auguste Escoffier, who was working in the Savoy Hotel in London. Nellie Melba was singing at Covent Garden, very close to the Savoy Hotel where he was working. He came up with the dish in 1892. Peaches, raspberry sauce and vanilla ice cream! Just to make sure everyone saw his new dish and to make sure everyone knew that Peach Melba was for the singer, he displayed it with a huge sculpture in ice of a swan which featured in the Wagner opera Lohengrin in which Melba was performing.

It took some time for the dish to be familiar to everyone. In 1902, it turned up at an American dinner party as pêche melba, in 1905 in a list of food luxuries – caviar and peach melba. It really went mainstream with its inclusion in one of the most famous cookbooks of all time Mrs. Beeton’s All about Cookery which includes peach melba as a recipe.

So it is that Wagner, Melbourne and Nellie Mitchell and Auguste Escoffier became mainstream.