How The Peach Melba Got Its Name

There are plenty of delicious recipes highlighting juicy stonefruits like peaches, nectarines, plums, and cherries. Their sweetness is a wonderful nod to summer and makes for a perfect dessert pairing with a grilled entree or even casual picnic fare enjoyed on a warm evening. One of the most natural flavors to complement fruit is vanilla — whether that's baked into a rich shortcake or infused in a wine sauce. The Peach Melba is a classic dessert that combines sleek sophistication with those comforting flavors in a bowl of goodness. (It even has its very own celebratory day of the year, per National Day Calendar: January 13.) This blend of vanilla, raspberry, and peach are sure to delight the taste buds, but that's only where the real story begins. 

The name of the dish itself doesn't give many clues to its origin, and it's such a well-known dessert that many who enjoy the sweet, cool treat (which happens to be a delightful cocktail, as well) are likely too busy eating it to wonder where the name came from. However, PBS explains this tasty treat has a story that goes back to the 19th century and entwines two famous people. 

An opera singer, a chef, and an inspired dessert

According to PBS, Nellie Melba (a stage name honoring her childhood home of Melbourne, Australia) first met French chef Auguste Escoffier in London in the late 19th century. As Melba traveled through Europe performing at various opera houses, she began to frequent the restaurants near Covent Garden in London where Escoffier was developing his signature style of cultivated, elaborate fare. He was leading the kitchen in the Savoy Hotel in 1893 when he first met the esteemed vocalist (via Brittanica). Nellie gifted the talented chef with tickets to the opera "Lohengrin," which then led to him creating a dish of fresh peaches over vanilla ice cream for her next visit to the restaurant. 

It was originally served with a swan carved from ice and was referred to as Pecheau Cygne (or "peaches with a swan"), but as time went by Escoffier continued to experiment with the dish. Eventually while working at the Carlton Hotel — which Escoffier moved to in 1899 — the chef added a raspberry puree to the fruity dessert. From then on the dessert was officially referred to as Pêche Melba, or Peach Melba, in the famous soloist's honor.

Simple, yet refined, Peach Melba continues to stand the test of time with its simple, yet perfectly paired flavors and elegant appearance.