YES, NATIONAL EGGS BENEDICT DAY IS A REAL HOLIDAY
Every April 16th, the country gathers to honor and recognize one of the most famous breakfast dishes, the Eggs Benedict. Since its creation in New York City, it quickly became a popular staple on brunch menus all over the world. Although this national holiday is a little more underrated than most, like Fourth of July or Thanksgiving, National Eggs Benedict Day is unique and special, with deep roots tied to American culture.
WHO CREATED THE FIRST EGGS BENEDICT?
Throughout the years, people have claimed to know the real Eggs Benedict creation story. Since no one knows if these are tall tales, theories, or truth, you can just decide which one you like best to share with your friends.
Although we can’t pin point its direct source, we do know that this quintessential brunch dish originated in New York City during the mid 19th century. This makes it a traditional, all-American icon that truly deserves its own national holiday, no matter how quirky. This meal is famous for its savory flavor profile and familiar, warm, comforting feeling. Traditionally, slices of Canadian bacon are added on top of English muffin halves, topped with poached eggs, and smothered in hollandaise sauce. So, whoever added all of this deliciousness together really must be a genius.
But who created it?
WAS IT MADE AT THE FIRST RESTAURANT IN AMERICA?
Now imagine our entire country, even your entire state or neighborhood, with NO restaurants. Can you imagine the hunger? The frustration?
At one point in United States history there were no restaurants, but instead only small cafes, pastry shops, and hotel lounges to grab a bite to eat. Nowadays, we are lucky enough to have every variety, flavor, and price point we could imagine, sometimes within minutes of our home.
Now imagine the public excitement when the Delmonico brothers decided to open the first ever restaurant, appropriately called Delmonico’s, in New York City in 1837. Not only were they the first restaurant, they were the first dining establishment in America to be called the French name “restaurant”, as well as the first dining service that had table cloths!
In 1862, Delmonico’s Chef de Cuisine, Charles Ranhofer was busy working his shift when a regular customer came in to visit. According to legend, Miss Legrand Benedict grew bored of the menu, complained about its lack of variety, and requested something new to be made. Chef Ranhofer spontaneously created the famous Eggs Benedict dish and subsequently named it after her.
One of Chef Ranhofer’s most impressive talents was creating instant-classic dishes that remain in the cuisine community today, such as Baked Alaska, Lobster Newburg, and Chicken a la Keene. All of these dishes, including the one we are honoring this month, were first featured on the menu at Delmonico’s.
The simple, yet delicious Eggs Benedict recipe was finally shared with the world when Ranhofer’s cookbook, The Epicurean was published in 1894, just 5 years before his death.
OR WAS IT MADE BECAUSE OF A BAD HANGOVER?
Do you ever wake up after a night of partying and create the next big culinary sensation? Us neither. But according to multiple sources, this was the story of how the OG Eggs Benedict was created.
After one particularly delightful night in New York City in 1894, a stockbroker named Lemuel Benedict awoke with quite the hangover. In search of a meal to heal, he stumbled in to the Waldorf Hotel and ordered two poached eggs, bacon, buttered toast, and a pitcher of hollandaise. To everyone’s surprise, he then added all of these ingredients together, creating a delicious dish and hopefully a cure for the night before.
Benedict’s dish caught the attention of the Oscar of the Waldorf, also know as the maître d’hôtel. He experimented with the dish by substituting ham for bacon and English muffins for toast and then added it to the menu for all guests to enjoy. As the story goes, Benedict was thrilled to have his dish on the menu, but he did not approve of the English muffins.
Flash forward several years and Lemuel’s first cousin’s son, Jack Benedict, began his campaign to rightfully name his relative as the official inventor of America’s beloved breakfast dish. His journey began by telling Lemuel’s story and then quickly turned into discrediting Delmonico’s claims that their Chef Charles Ranhofer was the creator.
Benedict was quoted matter-of-factly in Bon Appetit, “As long as the delectable dish is enjoyed by an increasing number of persons, I don’t suppose it really matters to whom is given credit for its innovation. But to set the record straight, it all began in New York City, at the old Waldorf Hotel, in 1894.”
But who created it?
AND NOW A BRIEF HISTORY OF HOLLANDAISE
The best part of Brunch History is discovering the untold origin stories of our favorite, indulgent breakfast foods. Some ingredients of these dishes also have interesting back stories, like the delicious hollandaise sauce, which has been around for over 300 years!
Hollandaise sauce is la crème de la crème, if we do say so ourselves. You may know the familiar flavor, but you may not know its fascinating world history that led it to be in the New York City kitchens during the creation of the first Eggs Benedict.
The first published recipe for hollandaise sauce came from Francois Pierre de La Varenne, in his cookbook, Le cuisine franis (which translates to The True French Cook), published in 1651.
After much research, historians agree that hollandaise was originally called Sauce Isigny, named after the town Isigny-sur-Mer in Normandy, which was known for its butter. Fun fact: Normandy is now known as the cream capital of France. During World War 1, France stopped producing butter, so it was imported from Holland; Hence the name hollandaise, which was used to identify where the butter was created.
After the war, Normandy returned to churning butter, but the Holland name stuck. Now, hollandaise is available in almost every breakfast restaurant across the country and most of Europe. We are very happy about that!
HOW TO CELEBRATE NATIONAL EGGS BENEDICT DAY
Now that you know more about the origin of National Eggs Benedict Day, we have a few suggestions to help liven up the weekend before the big festivity. We recommend gathering some of your favorite friends and family for a fantastic feast, of course! Toast to weird national holidays and share your Benedict theories while enjoying a Benedict of your own. That’s what we call a true breakfast of champions.
We would love your advice! Did you enjoy your first Brunch History lesson? Share what you think of the Ranhofer vs Benedict debate! Which story do you believe?