Eggs Benedict: Who Really Fathered Brunch?
After reading the story in the New York Times about the two branches of the Benedict family who both claim to have invented eggs Benedict, all I can say is, who knew? Apparently, at least according to a 1942 New Yorker article, in 1894 a hungover ladies' man, Lemuel Benedict, created the first version of the brunch standard when he ordered two poached eggs, bacon, buttered toast, and a pitcher of hollandaise sauce at the old Waldorf Hotel (now the Waldorf-Astoria. Lemuel Benedict would not tolerate substitutions, so the English muffin and the Canadian bacon must have come later.
Not so, according to Bon Appétit magazine, which in 1978 published an article crediting Mr. and Mrs. LeGrand Benedict with requesting the eggs Benedict fixin's around the turn of the century at the legendary Old New York restaurant Delmonico's. To bolster that claim, in 1894 Delmonico's chef Charles Ranhofer, according to the Times, "published a huge cookbook called The Epicurean that included an almost identical recipe, Eggs a la Benedick."
Who's right? The only people who really care are descendants of Lemuel Benedict, who continue to maintain that he is the eponymous creator of eggs Benedict.
Photograph by Adam Roberts